Supernova 2018: Get to know Latvia’s 21 Eurovision hopefuls

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Latvia’s LTV received 63 song submissions for Supernova 2018. And on December 6 — following a public vote, an insider jury, a second shortlist and live auditions before a smaller panel — producers finally revealed the 21 acts still in the race for Eurovision 2018. There are plenty of familiar names, including X Factor host and perennial contestant Markus Riva; Swedish-Latvian beauty and Supernova returnee Katrine Lukins; and established Latvian singer Jenny May.

As we count down the days until the New Year, we thought we’d take the time to introduce you to everyone once more, and fill in the gaps in our collective memory.

Latvia: Supernova 2018 semi-finalists

Agnese Strengevics — “You Are My World”

She’s a young singer at the start of her career — but one who is steadily building a name for herself. In 2014 she won “Baltic Talent” — a competition for young singers — and followed that up by winning “Riga Symphony” two years later (with a solid cover of “Dancing On My Own”). This year she tried her luck on Latvian X Factor, so can likely rely on some morale support from fellow contestant Markus. She wrote her Supernova entry “You Are My World” along with her father Helvijs, a composer and piano player.

Dvines — “More Than Meets the Eye”

The well-known duo — consisting of twin sisters Anastasia and Katherine — specialises in electronic dance music. In 2016 they placed fifth in their Supernova heat, narrowly missing a spot in the semi-finals with their song “Set it on fire”. But even before that they had developed a following: Their single “Moon” was nominated for Best Video of 2012 at the Latvian Music Awards. Their 2018 entry “More Than Meets the Eye” was born at a creative songwriting camp where the twins collaborated with musicians from other genres. We’ve got some bad news for all you guys who have already fallen in love with these adorable ladies —they’re both married to ice hockey players.

Ed Rallidae — “What I Had With You”

Formerly known as Edvards Grieze, he gained popularity by collaborating with well-known producers like Rassell, Rodion Gordin and DJ Makree. Raised in Ventspils — which hosted the old national selection Dzeisma for many years — he has already performed in Germany, Finland, England, Ireland and Russia. He tried his luck in Supernova in 2016 with “New Day”, finishing seventh of ten in his heat (which was won by eventual Supernova winner Justs).

Now he’s back with a song composed by beloved Aminata, who placed second with the Eurovision 2015 jury in Vienna. He was beyond surprised when Aminata messaged him about the collaboration. She texted him with, “I’ll tell you what — I wrote you a song.” And his answer was: “I’ll tell you what — I just dropped milk out of my hands”. We would have too. Given Aminata’s track record in the contest, expectations will be high.

Edgars Kreilis — “Younger Days”

You’ll remember him from Supernova 2017, when he performed the song “We Are Angels”, which placed eighth in the first heat. This year Edgars entered with two songs, advancing with this one. He only launched his solo career a year ago, but his fan base has expanded rapidly since he reached the finals of this year’s X Factor. His entry “Younger Days” is about childhood memories and the experience that we gain through our struggles. Edgars loves this famous quote from Nelson Mandela: “I never lose. I either win or learn.”

Hypnotic — “Pray”

Three female solo artists came together to form this hypnotising band — and they’re doing rather well so far. In their first year as a band they already surprised X Factor fans by finishing in the Top 10 and there’s much more to follow. The most famous of the trio is Sabine Geiba — previously known as Sabine Berezina — who competed with the song “My Inspiration” in Supernova 2016. The message of their song isn’t that original. It’s about peace on Earth and love all around us. But hopefully the production and sound will help them overcome the clichés.

In My Head — “Sunset”

Established in 2015, the band is the result of well-known Latvian singer Evija Smagare joining forces with Armands and Rugo. They mostly perform electronic dance music, but experiment with new sounds and sampling of other genres to create music that’s novel and original. Evija is responsible for vocal harmonies and melodic lines; Armands is the main instrumentalist; and Hugo is the creative coordinator who oversees recording and production. Their song “Sunset” is a story about independence, goal-setting and moving past seemingly beautiful obstacles. It’s a metaphor for the happiness you owe to yourself.

Jenny May — “Soledad”

Jenny is one of the most experienced singers in this year’s Supernova. In 2006 she finished third in the Latvian Eurovision selection with the song “I’m Alone”. In 2010 she earned a nomination for Best Pop Album at the Annual Award of the Latvian Music Records for her album “Nak Nakts”. The title track also earned nods for best song and best radio hit. Jenny is currently working on her fourth studio album, which will be dressed in Latino rhythms, as with her Supernova entry “Soledad”. She says her biggest inspiration is her seven-year-old daughter Sara.

Katrina Gupalo and The Black Birds — “Intoxicating Caramel”

Katrina Gupalo is one of the most unusual musicians in Latvia. She has a sensual voice and is a brilliant pianist, music producer and actress. Having studied at the Music Academy of the West in California and the Royal Academy of Music in London, she has a long list of international credits that include contests in Paris, London, Moscow and the United States. The Supernova jury was pretty shocked when they saw a musician of this stature on the list of competitors. She confirmed that Salvador Sobral was her inspiration to enter this year’s Supernova. Her song “Intoxicating Caramel” is about that most powerful feeling — falling in love, when everything stops, when comets fall from the sky and when lovers’ sweet nothings melt in the ears just like caramel. She’s a romantic…

Katrine Lukins — “Running Red Lights”

Last year she finished last in her Supernova heat with the song “Silhouette”. But this year she’s back with a way more powerful song produced by the well-known Kaspars Ansons. Her father lives in Latvia and her mother is in Sweden. Three years ago the Swedish-born singer came to Latvia to try her luck in Eurovision and soon found that Latvia was a better place for her to work with music. Now she’s here to stay. It hasn’t been easy — earlier this year she broke up with her boyfriend, but thankfully by the summer she had found new love. Now she’s grateful for that period of her life because its ups and downs have inspired her Supernova entry.

Katrine calls herself a bit “crazy”. She’s both a model and a dog trainer, who has a qualification in veterinary sciences. She’s always up for some poker but says that music remains her first and most enduring passion.

Kris & Oz — “Morning Flight”

The band first came together in Riga in 2013 and released their first mini-album “Image of You” three years later. Their video clip “If Only I Could” — made in conjunction with the visual artist Kristine Sisejeva — dropped the same year. Kristine wrote most of “Morning Flight,” which, unsurprisingly, was inspired by an early morning flight. You’ll have to decide if it soars or nosedives.

Laura Rizzotto — “Funny Girl”

A 23-year-old singer born in Brasil, Laura composed her first melody when she was 11 and has now published more than 100 original songs. She found her way onto the Rio de Janeiro music stages when she was 15 and her first contract with Universal Music Brasil came one year later, culminating in her debut album “Made in Rio”. Her next stop was the USA, where she attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston (former alums include Luisa Sobral, the sister of Eurovision winner Salvador) and later the California Institute of Arts. Earlier this year she completed her Masters Degree at New York’s Columbia University. Fun fact: She was hired as a Portuguese language vocal coach for Jennifer Lopez.

Lauris Valters —  “Lovers Bliss”

Some of us were surprised when Lauris won Heat 1 of last year’s “Supernova”. But none of us is surprised that he’s back and hoping to land in Portugal.

Many of his hits have been played on local radio stations and even abroad. He’s staged concerts in four countries and all around Latvia. His many collaborations with local singers include Aija Andrejeva, who performed for Latvia in 2010 (only Mr God knows why…). In 2015 he composed the song “Life Lines” which was performed in the first edition of Supernova by Rihards Saule.

Last year Lauris reached the Supernova semi-final with “Magic Years”. He may not have won, but he already has major Eurovision experience, as he was part of the band “PeR” that represented Latvia in 2013. He composed his current Supernova entry “Lovers Bliss” during last year’s contest. It’s like a sequel to his previous song and tells the story of how much Lauris adores his wife Vita and their family.

Liene Greifane — “Walk the Talk”

Better known by her stage name Liene Candy, she’s among the most recognised local stars competing this year. Thirteen years ago she gained popularity on the TV show “Fabrikas Muzikalais Teatris”, where she finished as runner-up, and later she participated in almost every musical TV show in Latvia. In 2010 her song “Rits ir talu vel” was the most played song on Latvian radio stations and “We Own the Night” — her collaboration with music producers “Miami Rockers” — landed her on top of the iTunes charts in Germany. She currently splits her time between Riga and Moscow.

MADARA — “Esamiba”

MADARA (that’s Madara Fogelmane to mom and dad) was born and raised in Jelgava — whose most famous homegrown talents include the Latvian band Brainstorm. She started playing cello during her childhood, and continued professionally at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, where she complemented her knowledge by learning from cello greats including Olsi Leka (Albania), Jeroen den Herder (The Netherlands) and Gavriel Lipkind (Israel). Speaking of her love of the instrument, Madara says: “The cello needs a human to breathe and to be alive, and I need the cello to resonate with the world.”

This August Madara performed at “Cello Festival Zutphen 2017” and for the first time she positioned herself as a cellist-singer. Asked about her song “Esamiba” (Existance), Madara says: “I still remember the moment when the song was born. Those first touches of bow to vibrating strings of cello, those first words that bring me further and closer to my existence.”

Markus Riva — “This Time”

He’s the only artist to have performed in every edition of Supernova — and for good reason: Markus Riva is a Eurovision fan favourite. A veteran of both Supernova and the earlier Latvian selection Dziesma, he’s earned a huge fan base at home and in Russia, Ukraine and many other Eastern European countries, where his glossy music videos are frequently played on music channels. With four solo albums under his belt, it’s no wonder he’s currently the host of the first ever series of X Factor in Latvia.

MIONIA —  “You”

MIONIA (real name Maija Licite) hails from Kuldiga — one of the most beautiful cities in Latvia, where she was born into a family of artists. Maija has played the piano since she was six years old, but later found her way abroad as a model. After returning to Latvia she earned a Master’s degree at the Art Academy of Latvia and since 2010 has devoted herself to music and songwriting. MONIA performs at festivals from from Latvia to New York, and says one of her biggest achievements was serving as the opening act for Lubomyr Melnyk on his European tour.

Monta — “1000 Roses”

She reached last year’s Supernova final as a backing vocalist for “My Radiant You” — but this year she is standing on her own. Monta comes with “1000 Roses”,  a song that she describes poetically: “It’s prayer that brings inspiration which embraces you like the scent of roses.” Monta started out as a violin player but soon realised that singing was the way forward. She participated in numerous contests and snatched her first victory with “Dziesma manai paaudzei” at the age of 10. She finished high school with immense experience with jazz and popular music and pursued higher education in pedagogy as a singing teacher. She published her first solo song “Goodnight” this summer.

Ritvars — “Who’s Counting”

Ritvars has a bachelor’s degree in law and is an IT communications specialist by day and a voice actor by night, recording music in three different languages. He calls himself lucky to be able to put together text with music and to find melodies playing with piano. He’s still working on his to-be-improved baritone register. Ritvars sees Supernova as the perfect place for him — he loves the rules and having dates by which the material must be done, which adds discipline and rigour to the chaotic process of songwriting. He’s dedicated “Who’s Counting” to his son. Owing to a divorce and the “division of children”, he’s not able to see him as much as he’d like.

Sudden Lights — “Just Fine”

Classmates Andrejs and Martins came together in 2012, and later invited Karlis Matiss and Karlis Vartins to join their band. In 2015 they won a local song contest “Pirma plate” and this summer they debuted at the local festival “Laba Daba”. Jose Gonzalez and “Radiohead” inspired their writing of “Just Fine”…which may be the first song in Supernova history without a chorus. It’s also one of the shortest songs in contest.

Rahu the Fool — “Oh, Longriver”

Inspired by their great-grandparents and their stories about love, war, the sea and childhood, the band found their style by playing their instruments as if they were living between 1920 – 1950. Folk, blues and other forgotten styles come together for a “jug band” feeling, which Latvians also call “poor people’s jazz” because those without means often used household items and self-made musical instruments. The band was only formed in 2016, but all of its members have previous experience with other musical projects.

Riga Reggae — “Stop the war U2”

Riga Reggae can proudly call themselves the only reggae band in Latvia! With their Jamaican rhythms and a clear statement about freedom, love and peace, these six experienced musicians are serving Bob Marley the Latvian way. Their song “Zvans pie durvim” is one of the most played songs in Latvia this year. Fun fact:  The leader of the band Horens Stalbe was inches away from representing Latvia at ESC 2002. His song “Stop the War” with Linda Leen finished second behind Marie N, who later won the contest in Tallin with “I Wanna”. Will we stop the war this time in Lisboa?

Which artists are speaking to you the most? Who do you think would do the best at Eurovision, based on the songs you have heard? Let us know in the comments box below. 

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