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Older, wiser Feist enjoying her freedom

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BOISE, Idaho -- It's the perfect spot: a literal garden of earthly delights.

Here, in the beautiful Idaho Botanical Garden in the picturesque town of Boise, Leslie Feist will later perform an outdoor concert to a couple of thousand, predominantly college-age fans.

Now, though, she's walking through the flowers and fauna, gazing at the wildlife as it wanders past, taking a breath and reflecting on the past several months of a career that, itself, has been something of its own natural wonder. One of her choosing, one of her making.

"This is just stunning," says the Canadian chanteuse. "Isn't it just stunning out here?

"Yesterday I woke up at the Gorge (in Washington State, for the Sasquatch festival) and this morning I woke up here. I kind of didn't know this tour was going to be so beautiful."

It is a tour that includes a headlining spot tonight at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, where she last performed in 2005.

"It's nice to see how she's emerged into an international star since she first played here," says Winnipeg Folk Festival artistic director Chris Frayer.

Feist will play the Birds Hill Park mainstage at 9:10 p.m. following sets by Toronto indie-folk duo Snowblink and Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow.

The tour marks the homestretch for the artist, as she wraps up the somewhat brief, in industry standards, promotional phase for her latest acclaimed album, Metals, which was released late last year.

In fact, Feist admits the end is in sight -- her final live date will be a Sept. 1 show in Hamilton at the behest of Daniel Lanois -- and other than having to say goodbye to her band which she's become incredibly close with, it's not an idea that necessarily bothers her.

"You realize that it's not a very beautiful thing to say that your life is ruled by logistics. As opposed to whatever playing field you set up for yourself then what you do inside of it -- you maybe determine the size of the playing field depending on how much stamina you'll have to play the game," she says rather thoughtfully, sitting on a bench in the shade of a stone statue of Sacagawea.

"So saying we're just going to tour for a year, that's already one massive shift from 'I'll tour until dot dot dot.' That was the way it used to be: Just tour (while) it makes sense to keep touring."

That, actually, was a trap she was adamant she wouldn't fall in with Metals, especially after the years spent on the road filling every obligation and opportunity offered her with her last, massive album, 2007's The Reminder.

The album made her one of music's biggest international names, earning her Grammy nominations and Juno Awards, as well as proving collaborative moments with everyone from Wilco and Radiohead members to The Muppets.

When it ended, she admits she was burned out and ready to turn her back on music for an extended period of time.

So when it came out to plot her life with Metals, she chose to scale it back, even plotting breaks in the schedule that meant she could take a couple of weeks for herself at home in Toronto. She had one such timeout prior to her festival jaunt that brought her to Boise for her own showcase in this natural setting.

"You tend to the life you otherwise don't attend to, like friends and family and bills and raccoons climbing on the roof, etc., etc.," she says of those two weeks off in Toronto.

"But after that, I was like, 'Oh man if I had been able to stay home, I feel like I could have written something.' Because it's about being still. I can't do it on the road.

"And maybe it is because Metals hasn't died yet.... Everything is alive and well."

Which, for most, would mean keep the foot on the gas to see how much further they could push it, how many more units they could sell, crowds they could reach and how many industry awards they could net.

Despite the results last time out, though, Feist learned from that gruelling experience the dangers in that way of thinking, both to her health and her artistry, and is now incredibly content to follow her own instincts.

"I guess I'm not scared for it to all go away," she says.

"That makes it nice. There's not this sense of hustle any more. It gives me a freedom to do exactly as I please and that's the reward if I manage to follow through on my idea and execute it in a way that stays interesting for me, she says.

"I feel great about it. I really made what I wanted to and then I lived it the way I wanted to."

-- Postmedia News, with files from Rob Williams

Concert preview

Feist

Winnipeg Folk Festival

Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Tickets: $62 adults; $49 youths (15-17)/seniors (65+); $8 children (5-14) at the gate and Ticketmaster. Five day passes $251 adults; $146 youths/seniors; $23 children.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2012 C3

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