Feist wrote this with Sally Seltmann, an Australian singer who recorded at the time as New Buffalo. Seltmann told Songfacts the story: "I wrote the song '1234' after a good friend of mine told me she was leaving her husband. I was upset when she told me, and it made me start to think how all everyone wants in this world is to be loved, and that money can't buy you back the initial feelings you have when you first start falling in love with someone.
I wrote the song on a piano in the hallway of my house. During this time, I had been listening to Feist's album Let It Die
. I thought my little song about lost love, and the hope to recapture what you once had, sounded too much like a Feist song for me to use for New Buffalo, so I shelved it. Then, in late 2005 I did a tour across Canada supporting Feist and Broken Social Scene. After meeting Feist, I started to wonder whether she might like to do a cover of '1234,' but I was too shy to tell her about it. At the last Broken Social Scene show, I plucked up the courage to tell her that I had written a song which I thought she might like to use. We went onto the tour bus, and I recorded a simple version of the song into her laptop, with guitar and vocals.
To my surprise, she loved the song, and started playing it live. Her version was more upbeat and energetic than my original version, and she also added an unbelievably uplifting and catchy outro section. After she had been playing it live for a while she changed a few of the lyrics. I was happy with her doing this, as I loved the new lyrics she added, as they helped express the idea of longing for the love you once had with someone, as well as longing for that free spirit one has in their teenage years."
Seltmann asked Feist for her thoughts on the song, and Feist sent the following: "It's all true. Sally asked me if I'd like to hear a song she had written that she thought was meant for me to sing rather than her. I recorded her singing it on the bus into my laptop and found it charming, sweet and something she was absolutely meant to sing herself. It was very slow and delicate and I actually wish the world could hear that nucleus version she left living in my laptop. The song is all there, just a younger version, shy and careful and pure. It was a few months later that I found it again and began to play around with it myself, some different lyrics dropped the anchor in more deeply for me to be able to sing it from my two feet. And gradually while playing it live it sped up and extended itself like a living organism. It was one of my favorite songs to play live from the start and was always one I felt belonged on whatever album I was going to be making next." (Many thanks to Sally Seltmann and Feist for the story. Learn more about Sally at sallyseltmann.com
. Feist's website is http://www.listentofeist.com