Estonians got to know him when he decided to participate in the third edition of the national version of the popular TV program „Idol” – „Eesti Otsib Superstaari”. When he was fighting for the victory the whole country was cheering for him lively. He won and became one of the biggest pop-stars of the young generation in Estonia. The rest of Europe heard of him when he took the final of the Eurovision Song Contest by storm with his song „Kuula” („Listen”) and conquered the hearts of the audience from Portugal to Russia and Turkey. Ott Lepland – a twenty-six-year-old-singer from Tallinn, given an amazing voice and great charisma, got to the top very quickly and apparently decided to stay there. In his discography he already has 4 studio albums and 1 DVD, an uncountable number of concerts and co-operation with the most important names of the Estonian show-business. Lately, to his list of achievements he added a small tournée around Europe to which all the tickets sold out immediately.
We managed to talk to him after his concert during the „Leigo Järvemuusika” festival in 2010. To Ott Lepland spoke Zuzanna Brunka.
How did it happen that you started your music career? As a child you had been singing in the TV shows and you had even recorded a few albums but it does not have much in common with what your career looks like now.
Actually, it all began about 4 years ago when I started my studies in the music school named after Georg Ots (Georg Otsa nimeline Tallinna Muusikakool is the best and legendary music school in Tallinn – editorial note) in the class of pop and jazz singing. Then the show „Eesti Otsib Superstaari” started and I thought to myself „Why not to give myself a try?”. I went there and I made it through. Now I consider myself a lucky man that I can work as a musician in Estonia.
Speaking of „Eesti Otsib Superstaari” – what convinced you to take part in this program?
It was a very spontaneous decision, to be honest. My friends, my teachers, my mom – everyone was telling me all the time that I should try myself there. Firstly I rather doubted if that was a good idea. I did not know what to expect, I was thinking „What if I make a fool of myself?”. But in the end I went there and I did well. Although in the very beginning I was really close to falling out from the show. Jury simply tortured me! (laugh). But no, really they were listening to me singing for like 20 minutes when others were inside for max. 5 minutes. They were telling me „Sing this, sing that…” all the time. But I made it finally.
Don’t you think you chose quite a hard way for yourself to step out? Such show is „blood, sweat and tears”. Didn’t you consider that it would have been easier to sing in a band, take part in a contest? All in all, Estonia is a musical country, there are a lot of possibilites for talented and aspiring artists.
In Estonia there are really many, many musicians of different categories. Performing in such show opens a lot of doors and besides it is simply a good promotion. I think it is not so easy to just start singing in Estonia. There is a lot of singers here that just sing and do nothing else and that creates difficulties and rivalry. Apart from that, as I said, such show is a good advertisement that helps young artists promote themselves.
You not only took part in the „Eesti Superstaari” but you won it! What is your „recipe” for the victory, apart from talent?
Honestly, I do not know. I do not know any formula for that. I just worked really hard on myself for the last 3-4 years, mainly on my vocal and… well. Maybe what helped me was the fact that during the show I did not changed, I remained myself. Maybe this is the way to win because I did not make any extraordinary efforts.
Do you have any nice memories that you took with you from the show?
Of course, there are a lot of good memories. Every person among the 10 finalists was totally different and maybe that was the reason why we were getting on so well. We are still very good friends and keep in touch. There are a lot of good things I will remember for a long time but I think that the nicest memory is of those people. We got on well together, we went out together, we cried together, we laughed together, we ate together, we drank together. That was a great time because we all lived in the same hotel, all 10 of us on one floor. From time to time we just sat in the room of one of us, talked and simply had a good time.
You experienced a great success – people love you, your songs rule at the tops of music charts. How does it feel?
Well, I cannot be sad (laugh). I feel good about it. For sure there is still a lot to improve and a lot of ways for me to develop, I mean my vocal and my music mostly. I am not sure if the music I am creating now will be the same in 10 years. I try to develop all the time and make the new ideas come to life. For now I am happy with how everything happened after the show.
Are there any Estonian artists you would like to co-operate with?
Yes, of course! Already during „Eesti Otsib Superstaari” I started making these dreams come true because in one of the rounds I performed in duet with Sandra Nurmsalu from the band Urban Symphony that represented Estonia at the Eurovision Song Contest last year . Then the idea to make a song together appeared. Obviously I would like to create something with Tõnis Mägi who is a, literally, living legend because his music was and still is strongly connected to Estonia regaining its independence and separating from USSR. For sure that is the person I would like to co-operate with the most. Next week I am playing a concert with him, so I will try to use my chance as well as I can. There is also this idea, although I have not discussed it yet, to record something with Lenna [Kuurmaa]. We have even talked about it today and we decided that it would be great to make a song together but we have not discussed the details yet. (The duet song from Ott and Lenna entitled „Sinuni” came to life in December 2010. It promoted their Christmas tour around Estonia and was very successful, placing 9th in the end-of-the-year-chart Aastahitt 2010. – editorial note). There are really a lot of interesting artists in Estonia… I was also thinking of working with Tanel Padar. I have a contract signed with the same record label as him. It can be even said that Tanel is my „supervisor” because he is one of the owners of that record label and he keeps an eye on me. (This musical dream of Ott also came to life, not so long ago. On February 21st 2013 the song „Jõesäng” in which Ott sings with Tanel, was released. It promotes their concert tour with Jalmar Vabarna organized in occassion of the International Women’s Day – editorial note.). I could also record something with Birgit Varjun.
Sounds ambitious. Are you planning to promote your music abroad?
Absolutely. I have even discussed it with my management already but the thing is you first have to work out your position in Estonia to take your music abroad. And when it happens it is still difficult because you need a lot of money and a very intense marketing. But maybe it will happen in the future. That is one of the biggest dreams of mine, to go with my music abroad but I think I will be able to think about it maybe in 2 years time. I am not that old (laugh) so I still have some time. (Exactly 2 years after this interview Ott performed at the Eurovision Song Contest that helped him gain recognition in the whole Europe – editorial note.).
Let’s keep our fingers crossed for that to happen. What do you enjoy the most in making your own music?
First of all, the process of composing and creating itself. But also emotions you feel when, for example, you play the piano or compose a new song. Composing, playing and singing make me feel good. This is the reason I do that and because of that I will try to stay in this business as long as I can.
And what gives you the biggest satisfaction during the concerts?
The biggest satisfaction is when you see that people like your music. For me it is really important to see if people enjoy what I play – when they dance, clap and scream. And what makes the artist happy the most is to see and hear that the audience knows the lyrics of your song. When they sing it along with you and they do that really loud… It makes you shiver and gives you goosebumps on your whole body. And I think that this is the greatest thing at the concerts – to see the people singing with you, dancing and being happy. I do not do that for money. I do that because this is what makes me happy and I hope that it gives joy to the listeners too. After the performance I always come up to my friends who are in the crowd during the concert and ask „How was it? Was it good? Did you like it?”. For me it is extremely important to make a good impression. I never go out on the stage and knock my performance off but always try to give more than 100% out of myself.