On Tuesday, Slovenia’s Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl qualified for the Grand Final of Eurovision 2019. Their entry, “Sebi”, along with the intimate and stripped-back staging accompanying it, has made the duo fan favourites. However, following interviews in which the pair have expressed their annoyance with the press and expectations of acts in the contest, they have been accused of sounding ungrateful. In response to this, Zala and Gašper have issued an apology via an interview with Evrovizija.com.
Following the adreleine rush of the first semi-final, the ten qualifiers were taken almost immediately to the press centre for the press conference. It is at this press conference where artists draw their halves for the final and answer questions from journalists. Responding to a question towards the end of the conference, Gašper said “boring questions like that are the reason we want to go home when we do interviews”. This prompted a mixed reaction from press and fans alike; some have applauded their honesty, whilst others have accused them of being ungrateful.
In an interview with Evrovizija.com, the duo have responded to the more critical responses to their words.
‘We didn’t have any energy left’
In the interview, Zala detailed the 12-hour days she and Gašper have had during the rehearsal days. As such, they were conscious to conserve their energy for the stage, where it matters the most.
We’re really sorry if anyone got the impression that we do not want to be here or that we aren’t grateful for the opportunity to present our song. If we didn’t want to participate at the Eurovision we wouldn’t have ever signed up for EMA in the first place. We wanted our performance to be the way we had imagined it, the way we wanted to present our song, both visually and in terms of the sound. That’s why we put our 100% into the performance, we gave our all at every rehearsal. After two weeks of rehearsing and then two days of constant rehearsals (we were at the venue for practically 12 hours) – we really tried to make our performance the best it could be – that’s why after the fourth rehearsal, the one that was actually the actual performance in the semi-final, we didn’t have any energy left. I was exhausted, I collapsed onto the sofa in the greenroom, because even though our performance isn’t the most energetic one, I still gave my all mentally. We wanted our energy on the stage to be the way we had wanted it to be and we’re really happy that we managed to do that – even better than we had originally planned. But that resulted in us having no energy later on, and even though we should have made the effort to tell people that we’re thankful – because we are, we’re the most thankful in the world, I can’t even put into words how amazing it is that this song, which was created in our bedroom, touches people – but there are no words that could actually express that, especially not after two days during which we put our all into the song. This song is, after all, the reason we’re here. And maybe we should have been a little more skilled when it came to our words and gestures, but we’re learning each day and we had learned so much here already, thank God we did, because we’re awkward and sometimes we do things we don’t mean and now we can truly thank every person out there – even if they only like the tune, even if they only like one word that’s the most wonderful thing. Because that is all we really want – we want our song, our music, to touch people. We don’t want what we say at the conference, at 2am when we’re exhausted (I was very cold), to touch people. But it wasn’t right to put out our opinion in a way that seemed impolite, that is the last thing we want. We still can’t say that we’re sorry for thinking some of the things that we do, because the fact is that we do feel uncomfortable sometimes. Maybe that’s because our attempts to present our music to the world fail in some interviews, because they aren’t asking about our song and we don’t know what exactly to say (for example when being asked about our clothes or how we spend our days here).Zala
‘We’re doing this because of the music, not the interviews’
Although they apologise for their actions and words being perceived as rude, they stood firm in their prioritisation of the music over the press aspect of the contest.
After the performance we were exhausted, we had spent 13 hours at the venue. After the conference we just wanted to go and take a rest, cuddle up and fall asleep, and we had said that at the conference. What we had said didn’t sound the way we had intended. Once again, because of the fact that there are people willing to vote for our song out of all the 17 songs in the 1st semi-final, we are very proud. We’re also proud of having won at EMA, even though first few weeks after it had happened weren’t all that easy. We’re proud that we are here. However, the music is still the most important to us, not the interviews, and we want to focus on our song, not our relationships with the journalists. We’re doing this because of the music, not the interviews.Gašper
Zala added that her covering herself with the Slovenian flag during the results sequence of semi-final 1 was out of nerves, not indifference. They are clear in that this experience means a lot to them.
One more thing – people have noticed that I covered myself with the Slovenian flag when we were waiting for the results. I didn’t do that to show that I didn’t care, quite the contrary, I was a little nervous. Even if we wouldn’t have qualified, we did the best we could and we wanted to get forward in the competition, who wouldn’t. And I just covered myself, that’s something I do when I am nervous. I thought that was funny, I didn’t think it implied that I didn’t care. Sometimes we do things that people misunderstand, we’re sorry and we’re planning on better expressing how we feel in the future. We don’t want you to misunderstand us, we don’t mean anything bad by it and we’re certainly not indifferent. This experience is priceless to us.Zala
‘We definitely want to feel more understood’
Like many artists, Zala and Gašper have been feeling many different emotions throughout their Eurovision journey. While they are happy about the positive reception to their song, they are frustrated with the criticisms they have gotten from press, particularly Slovenian media.
The situation is a little difficult – this is a carousel of emotions. Are we tired? Yes, we are. Are we upset because we feel misunderstood during interviews sometimes? Yes, we are. Are we happy that the song has made it so far? We’re the happiest on the planet. In the moment you simply express what you’re thinking and we still stand for that. We definitely want to feel more understood, especially by the Slovenian media that are most critical of us at the moment.Gašper
They ended the interview on a positive note, expressing gratitude that their music is being heard by a large audience outside of Slovenia.
I hope that you’ll point out our positive thoughts as well – the way you had pointed out the words we said when we were exhausted. We’re so grateful that our music is where it currently is, that people actually care about it.Gašper
For the Slovene speakers among you, you can watch the full interview below:
Who are Zala Kralj and Gašper Šantl?
Zala Kralj and Gašper Šantl are a couple (if you didn’t already notice), and have been performing together since 2017. The pair met after Zala began providing the vocals for some of Gašper’s songs, having both previously been solo artists. Earlier this year, they released their first EP, Štiri, which features four songs. Sebi, along with all their other released songs, were written by the duo.
They scored an unexpected landslide victory in the EMA superfinal against Raiven’s Kaos, earning almost 73% of the televote! As a result, they performed 5th in the first half of the first semi-final at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv on May 14th. They qualified for tomorrow’s Grand Final, but we will not know how exactly they scored until after the winner is announced.
Slovenia at the Eurovision Song Contest
Slovenia has competed 24 times as an independent nation. Previously, they have competed as Yugoslavia alongside: Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. As Yugoslavia, only four of the 27 entries were from Slovenia.
Slovenia officially debuted in 1993, where they won the right to compete after winning Kvalifikacija za Millstreet. They qualified along with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, who finished second and third respectively. Slovenia were represented in 1993 by 1X Band who sang “Tih deževen dan”. They finished in 22nd with Nine points.
Slovenia’s best ever finish at Eurovision is Seventh Place, which they have achieved twice. The first of those came in 1995, when Darja Švajger sang “Prisluhni mi”. Likewise the second of those came in 2001, when Nuša Derenda sang “Energy”. In Lisbon last year, it was Lea Sirk who flew the Slovenian flag with her song “Hvala Ne“. She performed in the second semi-final and successfully qualified for the grand final, ending a 2-year non-qualification streak for Slovenia. In the grand final, she finished 22nd with 64 points.
Are you supporting Zala and Gašper ahead of the Grand Final? Do you think they needed to apologise for their behaviour? Let us know! Be sure to stay updated by following @ESCXTRA on Twitter, @escxtra on Instagram and liking our Facebook page for the latest updates! We’ll also be posting plenty of content on our YouTube in the run up to Tel Aviv!