Back in 1996, a potentially career-ending vocal injury forced Leslie Feist, who at the time was touring with Canadian punk-rockers Placebo, off the road, ordered by her doctors to “stop singing for six months.”
Instead of wallowing in self pity, Leslie got busy, teaching herself guitar and honing her songwriting chops. With wide-ranging influences like the Bee Gees, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone and Ron Sexmith, combined with a folk, pop, indie-rock, electronic, blues and Latin music fascination, Leslie began formulating a unique songwriting and performance style, much of which stems from fingerpicked acoustic riffs (using thumb and index finger, exclusively) and “live looping” of her vocals.
Today, simply known as Feist, she’s the often imitated but never duplicated indie-pop icon known for hits like “Mushaboom” and “1234,” among many others. Let’s celebrate the recent release of her fifth solo album, Pleasure (her first in six years), with an in-depth Feist-y fingerpicking lesson.
During her stint as rhythm guitarist for Toronto-based indie rockers By Divine Right (1998–2000), Feist independently released her first solo album, Monarch (now out-of-print, although 2,000 vinyl copies were reissued in 2012), which she sold only at BDR shows. In the coming years, Feist would enjoy extended (and on-again-off-again) stints with artists like Peaches and multi-instrumentalist/producer Chilly Gonzales, as well as Broken Social Scene (Feel Good Lost, You Forgot It in People), before moving to Paris, France, where her sophomore effort, Let It Die, began taking shape.
Issued in 2004, Let It Die put Feist on the map as a solo artist (netting her Best Alternative Album and Best New Artist honors at Canada’s 2006 Juno Awards), its successful single “Mushaboom” hinted at in FIGURE 1, similarly performed in one of Feist’s favorite tunings,