In 2019, Eurovision fans were introduced to INGER: a cheery, charismatic 19-year-old Estonian singer-songwriter and national soccer player with a ukelele strapped across a white shirt with bright yellow buttons. His warm and charming indie folk track “Coming Home” led him all the way to a sixth-place finish in Eesti Laul, his country’s national selection for Eurovision.

Saturday marks his third time competing in the Eesti Laul final (he dazzled fans a second time in 2020 with the acoustic guitar-driven “Only Dream”). But this year, INGER has swapped 2020’s yellow turtleneck and socks for an orange and white striped suit, and traded whistling and acoustic guitars for the slick, funky pop song “Awaiting You.”

Those are just a few signs that the returning artist is feeling more confident and mature than ever.

Today, we welcome INGER back for an ESC United interview!

Congratulations on your third time as a finalist! How have these last few weeks been for you?

It has been an amazing road. In 2019 and 2020, it was a blast. Now, the third time, I’m thrilled and happy to be a finalist again. It means a lot. Eesti Laul and Eurovision are so important to me.

What makes Eesti Laul and Eurovision important to you?

The most important thing is that I can share my emotions and message to the world. I grew up in a family where everyone is a musician. It’s a dream, and has been a dream for so long, to represent my country. It’s such a huge and life-changing moment. I hope one day or this year, that this dream will come true!

How has this year at Eesti Laul felt different for you?

I think one thing is that I’ve grown so much. I didn’t go to Eesti Laul for two years. I just took some time to grow and write music. I wanted to be with myself and get to know myself. The first year was kind of a punch in the face, with so much attention. Things go so fast. The two years I didn’t go to Eesti Laul were kind of a relief. I had time to think through things. I’m not the ukelele with yellow socks anymore.

I feel this more positive feeling inside. This year’s song, “Awaiting You,” felt more positive as well. It’s a different angle. I feel so much more confident in myself. I love being on the stage, dancing and sharing this energy. It’s so much different from the last two years.

What is the story behind “Awaiting You?”

We went to a songwriting camp — it was my first one. I have written my music so many times alone, just me, or with one producer. It was a new experience for me to write with two people who I don’t know. I was a little nervous, and at the same time, excited!

Firstly, the song wasn’t written with Eesti Laul in mind. I remember, I was driving to camp and I got this very good feeling. The melody (from the chorus) “awaiting you” came to me, and I thought, “OK, I want to work with that.” It was the first day that we got there, and that was the first thing we did. My gut feeling was really good, and I went for it, and I’m really happy with the song. It had a good feeling, and it was upbeat. I had amazing people around me, Oliver de la Rosa Padilla and Sofia-Liis Liiv. They are the best.

What have been some of your favorite Eurovision songs over the last few years?

I’m really inspired by Måneskin. That was a win. I loved their confidence, and the way they stood out so quickly. Their genre was so different from that Eurovision song style we know, and I love it. At the same time, I also like Salvador Sobral — so gentle, so different. I love that Eurovision is growing in so many directions with its winners. It’s so important that other music styles can shine and be winners.

Last year, I also loved “Hope” by Stefan. He’s one of my friends, and his song’s message was so important. I was so happy he got there.

When we last spoke with you, you were balancing music with your career as a soccer player and coach. Are you still doing both?

I don’t do soccer anymore — it was too much. Now I’m a music teacher and a ukulele teacher. My life is just music, and I love it that way. Soccer is in my heart always. But you have to make some sacrifices for your dreams.

How did you make that decision?

I think it was that two-year gap I took. I had to figure things out, and I felt that it was just so hard for me to do two things and do them at a professional level. I don’t know how I had so much energy! I thought, “It’s now or never.” I had to listen to my heart, and my gut feeling told me to do music. I want to do it more and more.

What other plans do you have coming up outside of Eesti Laul this year?

I have a band, and I’m really excited for this ride. We’re doing some concerts and Estonian festivals. We’re taking it easy right now. Hopefully we’ll get around Europe and to some other countries next year. We’re working with some new music, and maybe this year, there will be Estonian-language music from me. I’m trying new things! It’s so crazy and so good at the same time.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?

I hope you all do the things you love! This is the most important thing in life. If you hate your job, quit! Do things you feel good about. If you’re not artsy, you can still listen to music and dance. That’s what “Awaiting You” is all about. Feel free, dance and sing along. I share all my love through this song!

INGER is one of the 12 artists competing in the final of Eesti Laul 2023. Three superfinalists will be determined by 50% jury and 50% televoting, followed by a Superfinal, where the winner will be determined by 100% televoting. The final begins at 18:30 Central European Time on ERR.

Are #YOU team INGER this year for Estonia? Let us know on social media @ESCUnited, on our discord, or on our forum page!

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