New Buffalo benefits from Feist's commercial hit
When the Concretes cancelled their Richard's on Richards appearance in May 2006, scheduled opener Sally Seltmann moved to the Gastown bar Six Acres (then known as Moonshine). The Australian–who records and performs as New Buffalo–treated a small number of patrons to a set of her dreamy yet substantial keyboard-based pop. Little did the dozen or so in attendance know that, just over a year after that intimate, magical gig, Seltmann would have an international hit.
The song is "1234", which Seltmann recorded on her friend and labelmate Feist's laptop at the end of a tour a few years ago. The Canadian singer-songwriter changed some words and slapped it on her latest, The Reminder, from which it was plucked for use in an iPod nano TV commercial.
"I really like her [Feist] as a person, and just wanted to see if she'd like to use the song, so it happened in a really nice way," says Seltmann, reached in New York.
New Buffalo isn't quite the household name Feist is now. But those who discover her latest, Somewhere, anywhere, will find a work of subtle charm. Some songs, like the understated, uplifting "Cheer Me Up Thank You", bask in a warm glow of contentment. But "City and Sea (Lady Nameless)", which has a show-tune bounce and brings in old sci-fi-movie effects, reveals a darker side, as the story of a car ride from "the city to the countryside" ends with the line "Nameless is the lady who has gone insane." "Stay With Us" (cowritten with her husband, Darren Seltmann, of Aussie act the Avalanches) is a haunting plea to, it seems, an unborn child. And although synths build "Emotional Champ" into full-blown, epic pop that recalls the work of fellow Aussie and friend Ben Lee, Somewhere, anywhere's focus is on Seltmann's tremulous vocals and melodic piano-playing.
"Playing the piano was a lot more about the performance, and I felt like that was the right way for me to express myself emotionally at the time," she says.
While recording and performing are fine, writing is what Seltmann loves, so she is quite satisfied with having a song on the charts though few people know her as its author. "I'm always writing songs, and it feels great this one's doing really well," she says. "And I'm quite shy. So it's nice for me to be a little mysterious."
New Buffalo opens for Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew at the Commodore tonight (October 25).