On 13th February we see the return of Estonia’s national final “Eesti Laul”, with the first semi final being held at the University of Tartu. Amongst the acts competing are a three piece debutant girl group named Little Mess, who consist of Johanna-Elise Kabel, Karmel Üksvärav and Viktoria Koljagina. They were formed after another former Eesti Laul girl group La La Ladies disbanded and their mentor Tanja (Estonia 2014) decided to start up with another project in 2019.
We were fortunate to catch up Little Mess just ahead of the start of Eesti Laul, where they’ll perform their entry “Without a Reason” in slot 9 of the first semi final. We took the chance to find out exactly how they were formed, how well they’re now working together after such a short time as a group and what Eurovision would mean to them!
Hi Little Mess! Could you introduce yourselves and tell a little bit about you individually?
Viktoria: I’m originally from a small town next to Tallinn called Maardu, but since 2010 I’ve been living in Tallinn. Singing since childhood, I finished music school (piano class), gained a BA in Finance and Banking and also I’m a certified internal auditor. All of my life, music has been a part of me, from song contests to live bands and music school.
Karmel: My name is Karmel and I am from a small town called Lihula. I’ve been singing since I was 2 years old. 5 years ago I decided that my only chance to become a singer was to move to Tallinn. During the daytime I work at Äripäev, selline magazines. My hobby is dancing and I love to dance different styles, for example jazz-funk or heels. If I had to describe myself with one sentence it would be: “A sunshine mixed with little hurricane”.
Johanna: My name is Johanna and I’m 19 years old. I’m from Saku and currently living in Tallinn. Singing on a big stage has always been my dream, and now it’s reality thanks to Eesti Laul. I have been singing throughout most of my life and I started singing when I was two years old. Now I’m here with Little Mess and it has been bliss.
I understand that there were 187 people who auditioned to be in the band, can you tell us about the experience of auditioning for Little Mess?
Viktoria: Each of us sent an application including a video, where we were singing and dancing. Then 25 of the 187 were offered a callback, where there were two parts: dancing and singing. On the spot we had to remember a choreo, and then sing in Estonian and English to 4 judges. Everybody was supposed to learn two songs at home: “Don’t Call Me Up” and our own choice of an Estonian song. Originally we were told that 3 or 4 out of 25 were gonna be chosen to be in a band, but actually the task turned out to be more complicated and 10 out of the 25 were called for another day of casting, where we also had to dance in groups, show the choreo piece from the other day and then sing at the studio. After another day, three of us got a message with a time and an address, no more details. And when we arrived, we were informed that the three of us were lucky enough to have been chosen to be in the new band Little Mess.
Karmel: Firstly I would like to say that I have also auditioned for Estonian Idol but I was never successful. I am now sure that it was just because I wasn’t ready mentally but also physically. Since then I’ve lost 20kg, which has made me so much more confident. But since then I’ve always wanted to be a singer and to perform in front of lots and lots of people. So when I got a letter from Tanja that I was invited to audition in front of them, I was so happy. And when I performed in front of them, with the dancing and singing, I felt that I was in a right place, doing a right thing and I didn’t feel nervous. So the first time in my life I didn’t feel nervous and enjoyed performing. I think they saw that and that’s why I got into the band.
Johanna: So the first thing that we had to do was to send a clip of ourselves singing and dancing. After a while I got an email that said I had been chosen to participate in the second round where we had to sing and dance to professionals who then chose who got to the final round of singing in a studio. By that time it was only 10 of us left. The next day I got a call, that said to come into the same studio where we had been singing just the other day- just to find out that i have been chosen into the band!
Did any of you know each other before the auditions?
Viktoria: No, absolutely not.
Karmel: We didn’t know each other at all, which is funny as Johanna and I know so many of the same people. But Viktoria was the first girl who came to talk to me at the audition. And I felt like I already knew her, because it was so easy to talk to her.
Johanna: Absolutely, no. We only got to know each other at the audition.
Before Little Mess what jobs or careers were you in? Did you have to give up working to be in the group?
Viktoria: I’ve been working at EY for almost 6 years for now and am currently still working there. Since October 2019, I have been working part-time, because it’s getting harder to combine Little Mess and a career of an internal auditor.
Karmel: Over the past years I’ve been doing many sales jobs, such as real estate agent etc, just because I wanted to work on my communication and performing skills. I believe that a singer’s lifestyle is also like selling, but I didn’t have to quit my job to join Little Mess because luckily, just before that, I got a job to sell magazines in Äripäev and I only have to work for four hours per day which is perfect.
Johanna: I was actually just finishing school at that time and had exams and papers to do. It was very overwhelming but you can not quit school so no. And right now I am a teacher at a childrens acting/singing school.
How quickly did you have to record your debut single ‘Sinu Jaoks’ after the group was formed and how did you feel about releasing your first song?
Viktoria: Little Mess has existed since 4th of May when we first met at a studio knowing that we were chosen. ‘Sinu Jaoks’ was then made in a month, published at the beginning of July (on Spotify and also Youtube), so I would say it was quite quick, taking into account we didn’t know each other and also had personal plans and other obligations during the first month. We were extremely happy to release our first single. It felt unbelievable and absolutely incredible when you hear your song on the radio when driving or when somebody sends you a video listening to our song. A very special feeling!
Karmel: After we formed the group, everything went so fast, and I was so excited about it. Because no matter how good the covers that you sing are, your own song will still be the best one. The best thing about it is that, when we perform it now and even when people don’t know the song, I’ve seen that people will still sing the song along with us and that feeling is powerful.
Johanna: We were kind of fresh at the time, so it was more difficult to see who’s singing where and so on. But hearing our song for the first time coming from a radio was insane. A part of your dream just came true.
How well do you work as a group now? For example, do you know by now which lines in a song would suit one of you rather than the others?
Viktoria: For me personally it was unexpected how we decided “who sings what” almost at the beginning, when we were trying to sing covers during rehearsals. It wasn’t that hard. Johanna has very unique high notes, Karmel has a bright voice to be lead very often, and I am the base of us singing the lower parts. In a couple of months we got a feeling of the strengths and weaknesses of each other. I’m not only talking about musical parts, but also about psychological too.
Karmel: The best thing about our group was that it took us only maybe a month to realise who will sing which part. It was so clear and it worked really fast. Also I love that the bond between us has grown so fast, so strong that if we look at each other on the stage and, if something happens, we already know how to react. Also I feel that I made two new awesome friends, who I can trust.
Johanna: We have fun, we work hard, we eat and sleep and sweat together, so deciding who sings a line in a song is like taking candy from a child – easy. It took us a few months, but now it comes naturally.
How much time do you spend together now you are in Little Mess?
Viktoria: On average, we see each other 3 times a week, but we are texting every single day, a lot of stuff to discuss and decide. There were two periods when we saw each other every day and sometimes nights – before our first performance (because of preparations) and in December (because of the concerts).
Karmel: Lately we’ve seen each other like two or three times per week, since we have rehearsals to do. But we talk to each other every day. Which is nice, so we can build on that bond that we have.
Johanna: Like I said before: We eat, sleep and sweat together. So a lot.
So a win in Eesti Laul would mean you representing Estonia at Eurovision. How do you feel about the prospect of singing to millions of people across Europe and the world?
Viktoria: That makes me feel so excited every time I think that it could be true one day. It sounds like a dream! The Eurovision contest has always been a tradition of watching the show on the TV with your family and choosing your own personal favourites. And if I think about the fact that this time we can be on the other side of the TV, inside this huge project – it makes me crazy It is a huge responsibility to represent our country, and on the other hand I can see how much we’ve worked on this and of course we would be happy to share it with millions and millions of people, to show girls around the world who dream to be a part of a girl band, that everything is possible! In any case it will be an unforgettable experience and a fireworks of emotions. We will do our best!
Karmel: This would mean the world to me. I feel like performing is the best way to represent my emotions, through song. And I feel like music is one possible way for me to make people feel something and to make them hear what I hear, so Eurovision is the best way to do that.
Johanna: That would be terrific and terrifying at the same time. There would be so many mixed emotions, but It would definitely be a highlight of my life.
Thank you Little Mess for your time today and you can watch their Eesti Laul entry “Without A Reason” below!
See how the group get on in Semi Final 1 on 13th February and don’t forget to vote in our poll below to let us know who you would like to qualify!