Singer-songwriter Feist offers lo-fi "Reminder"

NEW YORK (Billboard) - After two years of touring in support of her 2004 album, “Let It Die,” Canadian singer/songwriter Leslie Feist realized she had really just been making “baby steps toward an undetermined future.”

Canadian singer/songwriter Leslie Feist poses with her Juno awards in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in this April 3, 2005 file photo. After two years of touring in support of her 2004 album, "Let It Die," Feist realized she had really just been making "baby steps toward an undetermined future." REUTERS/Jim Young

So rather than commit to a lengthy recording process, she roped in a few key collaborators and her touring band and assembled “The Reminder” in less than a week’s worth of sessions at a rented home outside Paris. The new album arrives May 1 in the United States via Cherrytree/Interscope.

“We often had people playing instruments they hadn’t come to play,” Feist said with a proud grin over scrambled eggs and orange juice at a trendy downtown New York hotel. “Every time someone said, ‘Why?,’ the answer would be, ‘Why not?’ There was a mass hypnosis that occurred when we played the songs over and over.”

That attitude has helped the honey-voiced Feist build a sizable following in the States and abroad since “Let It Die,” which blended luxuriant pop originals like “Mushaboom” and “One Evening” with chilled-out Bee Gees and Ron Sexsmith covers. The album has sold 116,000 copies in the States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and substantially more abroad, according to Cherrytree president Martin Kierszenbaum.

“There were certain intervals, or tempos, that were worn in, so I kept wanting to skip over and refine those places I hadn’t gone yet,” Feist said of her songwriting approach this time around. “People often write what they know they’ll be able to sing, but what I loved about singing covers was that my voice ended up doing things it would never naturally do.”

In tandem with longtime associates Gonzales and Dominic “Mocky” Salole, Feist was able to crystallize the “lo-fi, lowbrow sound” she had been hearing in her head for months. Indeed, “The Reminder” places the artist in a wide array of sonic environments, from the girl-and-her-guitar vibe of opener “So Sorry,” “Intuition” and “The Park” to the pounding, piano-led blog favorite “My Moon My Man” and the frenetic sing-along of the traditional song “Sea Lion Woman.”

“Something that was new for me was trying not to use headphones,” said Feist, who is also a key member of Toronto rock collective Broken Social Scene. “We tried to do as few overdubs as possible. We’d do what we’d call ‘town hall,’ which was everybody around one mic singing all at once. I wanted it to sound a bit like a congregation.”

Kierszenbaum says a staggered promotional scheme helped “Let It Die” gradually build steam, but there will be a more concerted push for “The Reminder” at the outset, including a May 8 appearance on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

Feist is already back on the road, having hit major European cities earlier this month in advance of a Canadian tour and a June run through the States, which includes a stop at Bonnaroo. But she’s pacing herself a little better this time out.

“In July, I’ll be ready to just rent a cabin by a lake somewhere,” she said.