The first six artists of the 12 finalists taking part in Eesti Laul, the competition to find Estonia's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest in May, were voted to the grand final on Thursday night, in an event at the University of Tartu Sports Hall. There were 12 acts in the semi-final; six of these made it to the grand final, taking place at the Saku Suurhall on February 29.
Two rounds of voting were used to decide the final qualifiers. Firstly, the jury chose their personal favourites, then public televotes were added to these votes to give an aggregate.
Following the first round of voting, four artists automatically reached the finals - Rasmus Rändvee with the song "Young", Anett x Fred with their song "Write about me", Egert Milder with "Georgia (On My Mind)" and Synne Valtri feat. Väliharf. with "Majakad".
Two more artists were voted to the grand final by televote alone. These were Stefan with the song "By my side" and Laura with "Break me".
ERR News visited the event to ask the contestants and organisers about their emotions and the overall experience before the live show kicked off; their comments follow.
Little Mess: "We did the rehearsal and it seems that it went really well. We are most afraid that we will stumble on the stage, because we use a lot of movement during our show. We think that our advantage is that we are an all-girl band, which isn't very common in Estonia. What we want to take from Eesti Laul is courage and the right balance of nervousness and energy."
Synne Valtri: "I consider all of the other 11 contestants my favourites, but I won't hide the fact that Egert Milder's 'Georgia' has really conquered my heart. Our age groups are so different, and if I'm being honest, I'm competing against artists 10-15 years younger than me. The music they're doing, it's fine, they have to make this kind of music. That means I have to gather all the other listeners."
Laura: "With stage nerves, if you have them, you have them, and it helps. I love how diverse this year's repertoire is, and I think lots of great, new music will come out of this show."
Jennifer Cohen: "The rehearsal period has been intense. We haven't focused on the props and light, but rather on the visual side and dance routine. I have two dancers; we wanted to create the same retro vibe on stage as we did in the video. I have many friends from the Estonian Idol here, but thankfully they are in the other semi-final (on Saturday-ed.)."
Renate: "I have lost my voice and I'm really worried about that. I cured it with ginger, lemon and mustard plasters. But then I started singing and hurt my voice again. Now I'm trying to be really quiet."
Kruuv: "We wish that people would remember us by our positivity. The idea is to direct our nervousness into a nice energy, a liveliness, for example. The atmosphere has been so good here and all the artists are really professional. We love Egert's song!"
Anett: "I have been a little nervous all day, in a healthy amount! It's my fourth time at Eesti Laul and I'm so glad I'm here with Fredi this time. I think it's so important to create songs with somebody you trust in order to express what you really are."
Fredi: "I am not worried, I just want Anett to feel good here. In this semi final, we have so many friends together, and I hope that, because everybody is friends here, the songs won't be judged on the basis of friendship, but rather on the basis of the song."
Revals: "It seems to me that there is a lot of pop music this year, but I think that the jury who evaluated the songs really thought they were the best ones. My song is really sincere, everything comes from my heart, it's about love. And the song was written on Ruhnu island."
Rasmus Rändvee: "My contribution was 50 percent of the song-writing process. I think that compared with other Karl-Ander's songs, this one is more raw. I like how simple and sincere the song is. I hope the music and the art will win!"
Egert Milder: "I like equality in life and we have divided everything equally; we are all songwriters. The songs we create are born out of cooperation. I think my song is not very conventional, and lots of Estonian big radio channels are not playing it. I have never actually considered myself a singer. Firstly, I am a guitarist, secondly a songwriter and then maybe a singer. I actually can't read music, but on the other hand, the members of my band are musically very educated."
Inga: "Not that I don't like my song or production or that I don't believe in it, but in some sense I understand that it is not going to Eurovision this year, which doesn't mean that I don't want this. It's just that some songs are here more for the show and others for the purpose of representing Estonia in the Eurovision Song Contest. But I definitely want to take more songs to Eesti Laul and to also get to Eurovision. You have to try until you make it."
Stefan: "I am always honest; if I don't like something, I always say so, and we will try something else. In the rehearsals, we had problems with the lighting; I hope we can fix this. And I hope I can pull myself together for the live performance. This event is familiar to me, I feel good here."
Editor-in-chief of ERR's lifestyle broadcasting Karmel Killandi: "We are much more daring with decorating the room; the light posts descending from above are definitely special. Then we have big beams of lights which stretch from one end of the hall to the other. The audience is within the space of powerful telecommunication equipment. Here we really have the best equipment it's possible to have right now in Estonia. I'm a little anxious about the classical elements of live broadcast, the elements that can go wrong. What I really love about the competition is that the public can really express their opinion. Every year I wait with interest, what the song and the stage show will be, that at least half of the audience has liked."
Executive producer Tomi Rahula: "The confidence is different this year, we know what we are doing as a team. Last year, we did it all here for the first time. There was so much to learn and even getting to know the facilties and the team took some time. This year, we already know this place. There are many new aspects this year and I'm very glad about it. While there is always a chance that something can happen in a live broadcast, we now know how to organize everything behind the stage. I'm sincerely happy that the artists have prepared such great stage shows."
Regarding music producer Karl-Ander Reismann, who is participating with four songs this year, Rahula noted that Reismann is strong in knowing what works in our times, and without great talent, that wouldn't be possible.
Editor: Roberta Vaino