Wiiralt: ‘Tuuled’ is a prayer, asking to take the hurt away

Only a few days to go until the semi-finals of the Estonian selection “Eesti Laul” start, with the first show on Thursday being held in the Saku Suurhall in Tallinn, unfortunately without an audience.

The band “Wiiralt” will be appearing in this first semi-final with their song “Tuuled”.  We were lucky enough to get a chance to chat with founder member Martin Saaremägi  about their journey.

Wiiralt, are a country rock and roll band who describe their music as “Nordic tales with a Nashville Sound”. Martin, hi and thank you for finding the time to answer a few questions for us. Firstly, introduce us to your band members and tell us a bit about yourselves.

Wiiralt is a 7-piece band. We have two singers Marta and Vahur and Siim, Nõmmar, MIhkel, Hans and myself backing them up. We have your regular rock band stuff and we add harmonica, banjo, dobro, mandolin for taste. So there’s a lot of American roots music in our Rock’n’Roll. Sounds like Led Zeppelin playing Johnny Cash. Everyone is calling us a country band except ourselves.

Your recent album “Lill on Iga Inime” was made with charity in mind – tell us the story. And is “Tuuled” a follow up on that theme?

“Lill on iga inime” is sad and beautiful at the same time. It tells a story about cancer. From the beginning to the bitter end. Trying to do a good deed with it and raise money for people that don’t get cancer treatment from the state. Seems it has touched many. The subject is really personal and heavy. “Tuuled” is like a prayer or a chant. Asking for the winds to take the hurt away. The heavy feelings that we had after these cancer songs. So our cancer album had a lot to do with writing “Tuuled”.

I’ve read that you did not tell the other band members that you had entered a song for Eesti Laul and they found out by watching television! How did you explain this to them?

I didn’t tell anyone that I am entering “Tuuled” for Eesti Laul. I thought the less they expect, the less there will be a disappointment. So one night I was walking my dog, I receive a phonecall from Marta. She’s really hyped and asked “Why is her face on the national TV?”. I said “I have no idea. What did you do”? She’s been on some big TV shows and perhaps that’s the deal. And she goes “You are on TV as well”. So that’s when we knew. They all were excited. They still are. Way more than me. So the surprise worked like a charm.

I also understand that the band is named after the famous Estonian graphic artist, Eduard Wiiralt – how did you come to choose this name?

The band is named after Eduard Wiiralt for few reasons. His works are just badass. And so was he. A true rockstar way before there were any rockstars. Living hard and working hard. The other reason is, when I was a little boy and went to visit someone with my parents – there was a replica of some of Wiiralts works hanging on every homes wall. I hope Wiiralts music will be in as many homes in the future.

Country music is often under-represented in Eesti Laul, we had your former band, Revals, last year, how is the country music scene in Estonia?

One of my previous bands before Revals – Triin Niitoja & John 4, was also playing some country flavoured pop music on Eesti Laul with “This is our choice”. In 2015 I think? [“This is our choice” finished 5th in the final] The funny thing is that there was no country scene in Estonia for the longest time but after I started Revals a lot of local musicians discovered the sound. For the last few years everyone is buying dobros and and jumping on the bandwagon. Big radio stations have country shows, few country festivals, etc. So it’s getting attention more and more.

Wiiralt have been treating us to cover versions of other songs in the contest, and giving them a real country makeover (I particularly loved your remake of REDEL’s “Tartu”!) Do you plan to cover them all?

We started to do the covers of other Eesti Laul songs so we wouldn’t be one of those artists that only promote the same one song, the same one video and the same one photo for 4 months. We are a band so we’d rather work on music. And it is a blast to do. We are probably only going do 7 covers. One every Friday. Koit Toome and Suured tüdrukud will be next. Don’t know what the last one will be. But who knows. Perhaps we’ll make some more after Eesti Laul if people like these. We’ve been also jamming with other Eesti Laul participants as well. Hope to release some of those videos quite soon. A lot of great musicians on that show.

How difficult has it been during the pandemic? Were all the band members able to get together for rehearsals with social distancing etc?

The hardest part of social distancing that was to cancel our “Lill on iga inime” album release show with many well known quests and a the Noorus choir. But we’ll get that chance sooner or later anyway. Other than that, it’s not that bad. It gave as the chance to work on the cancer album. If we would have been busy touring then we wouldn’t have had the time. Right now we are almost done with our third album and it’s going to be amazing.
Haven’t had so many free weekends in 20 years I think. I could get use to not being on the road all the time.

I’ve spoken with many Estonian artists in the past who say that the international exposure of taking part in Eesti Laul is the main reason for entering a song, do you feel the same?

I think the national exposure is far more important with Eesti Laul than the international exposure. Most of the artists never perform abroad. And the Estonian artists that do, like Trad Attack or Metsatöll etc, have never been on Eesti Laul. We are there to cheer for Uku Suviste 🙂 Eurovision has been his dream forever so after the semi-finals we are going to ask all our friends and fans to stop voting for us. So we could help to make Uku’s dream come true.

Lastly, when we finally get back to a normal life, what will Wiiralt have in store for us?

After Eesti Laul we have a lot planned:
* New single right away and really big news to go along with that
* A really fancy “Lill on iga inime” premier show
* Touring Estonia and hopefully some other countries as well
* Our third album and it’s going to be killer
* Been writing and recording our first 2 English albums with some big names in the USA. From New York to Nashville to Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back.
* Probably will do some writing and recording for other Estonian artists as well.

Martin, thank you for this and good luck on Thursday! Listen to Wiiralt’s song “Tuuled” here, and vote in our poll below for the six songs you think should progress to the Grand Final on March 6th.

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