Ott Lepland: Estonian Idol, Eurovision star.
He started out as a child singer when he was just 8 years old, releasing four albums in 1995 and 1996. He studied the piano for ten years, and performed in various theatrical productions. It was in 2009, however, that Ott got his big break with Eesti otsib superstaari, Estonian Idol, where he won the entire competition without ever being in the bottom three. Since then, he played the lead in the Estonian version of High School Musical, released two albums, and won the TV contest Laulupealinn “Estonia’s Song Capital” in 2011. Ott’s popularity skyrocketed after winning Eesti Laul 2012, securing him a spot in Baku, Azerbaijan for the Eurovision Song Contest, where we all know him from his marvelous sixth-place finish with the powerful ballad “Kuula”. He’s since released another album, Öö mu kannul käib, appeared on the Estonian version of Your Face Sounds Familiar.
ESC United was lucky enough to have a chat with Ott, one of our favorite Eurovision stars, as he continued his first North American tour in Los Angeles on 19 October. Ott revealed some details about his work process, busy schedule, and whether we’d see more of Ott back on the Eurovision stage.
Ott’s experience in the United States and Canada was undoubtedly positive, and he appreciated the friendly people–Estonian expatriates and other Americans alike–and the beautiful sights. “My first impression of the United States is very good,” said Ott. “Everything is much bigger than in Estonia.”
Ott, who enjoyed the weather in Los Angeles compared to the frigid snow of Estonia, hopes to visit the other great cities of the United States. He also explained that his schedule in Estonia is a lot more packed than when he goes on tour. “It’s been like a little vacation for me,” he said. “For me, it’s very comfortable, and I can be here with my two good friends: my guitar player Kristjan and my tour manager Mihkel.”
When not busy with his music, Ott enjoys the simple things in life: seeing the city, walking on the beach, sunbathing. “Friends, nice weather, nice people. That’s the thing that helps me relax,” he said.
Ott certainly ends up participating in a lot of singing contests, from Estonian Idol to Eurovision. Like many artists, Ott faces a very competitive industry where exposure and publicity are important to keep in the public’s eye. “If you want to stay in the picture, you have to do something,” he said. “It’s not like I have planned to participate in different shows each year, but I’m happy. I want to live my life and do different things while I’m young; to keep on studying and developing myself.”
One thing on many fans’ minds though: Is Ott Lepland coming back to Eesti Laul?
“That’s a good question,” Ott said. “But for that, I need to have a stronger song.”
While Kuula, Ott said, is a strong song, Ott does feel a bit of pressure to do better than his sixth place finish in Baku in 2012. ‘”It’s a very difficult task,” he said. “I believe that if they see my participating again in Eurovision, they would hope me to get a better place than last time.”
It all depends on the song for Ott. “If I find a very good song, and if I find that this is the song that can rule Europe, why not?”
Ott isn’t closing the doors to other musical genres either. When asked about whether he would consider electronic dance music, he said “Why not? If I find myself comfortable in some other music style, then I would definitely like to try that style out. At the moment, I feel that I’m in this phase in my life where it’s more of calm music and ballads. ”
“At the moment, I’m open to new challenges,” he said. “Never say never.”
One of these challenges is recording and releasing music in languages other than his native Estonian. “We have plans to release four or five songs in English,” he said.
Ott even revealed some details behind the decision to sing Kuula in Estonian, telling the producers that because the song was born in Estonian, it had to be sung in Estonian and not in English. “It’s very important that if we are given the chance on such a big stage such as Eurovision, it is our obligation to perform in Estonian,” he said.
After Eurovision, Ott has such a wide fanbase, reaching across the entire world. “I’m very thankful to the people that listen to my music,” he said. “It’s difficult to say how I feel. When people like my music, then I feel great. That’s why I do the music, to make people happy and give them something emotional.”
And the fans definitely want to feel these emotions from Ott’s music. Ott recalled his concert in a church in Espoo, Finland, where the venue was literally packed with people. He sympathizes with the fans who weren’t able to get in, and promised to some day go back to Finland.
“If I’m invited to perform in different countries outside for Estonia, I’ll definitely go,” he said. “If I have any offers from different countries ‘of the world, then I’m just glad to accept them and give concerts where I’m invited.”
At the end, Ott gave a touching message to his fans, especially the ones in Estonia who have been with him from the beginning. “Thanks to those people, I have work, I have food on my table. It’s really important to recognize those people and to give them a big thanks.”
He also leaves a message to aspiring musicians all over the world: “Stick to the music that you really like. Just listen to the voice of your heart, and the success will come.”
Here are some selected photos from the concert:
For more, check out the album on Facebook.
If you like Ott Lepland, you can buy some of his music on iTunes, where you will find his latest album Öö Mu Kannul Käib. You can also like his official fan page on Facebook, where you can find updates on Ott’s music and concerts.
ESC United would like to thank Ott Lepland, his tour manager Mihkel Tepp, and his guitarist Kristjan Kaasik for making this interview a reality. We would like to also thank Carlos Carmona from The Cypress Chronicle for shooting the video and taking stills from the concert.