Some people who hear Mick Pedaja's music for the first time might characterise it as spiritual, but the musician dislikes that label, as he explained in von Krahl, a bar in which he worked before going full-time with his compositions. Instead, Pedaja felt that he had learned from everything that had happened in his life, and tried to put that into sound.
"Everything I do comes from my inner feelings. I get inspiration from my friends, from things I hear in the city. If I hear something, I try to record it with my phone, and use it in my songs. I think my inspiration comes from life, and I try to put music and life together. If you're making music and something happens in life, things develop along the way. You can't just be [huge] like Robbie Williams, for example - you have to grow and get there, and what happens along the way is important."
The fan of old-school hip-hop and funk music has made a debut full-length album, Hingake / Breathe, that follows another of his many influences, ambient music, and sits alongside some of the more thoughtful releases by Brian Eno, as ten tracks of living, breathing electronic soundscapes, Pedaja's delicate vocals used as one of the instruments, creating an atmosphere of calm. "I sometimes like to meditate," Pedaja said, trying to explain where the unhurried sound came from, "but I take a bath or go for a walk in nature - that's my meditation, mostly. I used to meditate a lot, but I've got lazy!"
Hingake/Breathe began after Pedaja left a band in his native Rapla. He wrote a song, Seis, for entering into Eesti Laul, the Estonian selection process for the Eurovision Song Contest, in which he competed in 2016. It was set apart from the other entries in the finals by not being a verse-chorus pop song, but more of a mini-symphony.
"I had a home-studio with my good friend Uku. I hadn't been writing songs with lyrics for long. I wrote the song in Rapla Culture Centre, on a big piano, and the lyrics were in my own pretend language to begin with, and the melody came from there. The final version was in Estonian, and though the original was three minutes 50 seconds, we managed to cut it down to the three minutes in the regulations."
Inspiration for the album came easily. "I just closed myself in my apartment and wrote the songs. Sometimes it's hard to get a flow, but on this occasion it wasn't. Some of the songs I wrote felt like they had a different flow; if you write something on a piano or guitar it'll have a different flow, if you're jamming that will give things a different flow. For this reason, there were some tracks that we just couldn't include on the album because they were too different."
"I made it with a Midi piano, and a Macbook with some really good plugins. We got Profit synthesiser from Vaiko Eplik, and some rhythm work was done with Kristjan Kallaste, the Ewert & the Two Dragons drummer. My good friend Marten Kuningas helped me to get the point through better in the English lyrics, because initially they were a bit chaotic."
"I started after Eesti Laul, with Valgeks, and then they were all written and recorded together." There is one song on Hingake / Breathe that Pedaja felt had a particularly personal resonance for him, due to a personal tragedy. "Koju / To Home is really personal to me. It talks about my lost son. He went to the sky, and the song talks about that. All the music is united, the whole album is a story of that period. It's really hard to forget - you remember this all your life. But I made peace with him, and if I'm on stage, I'm thinking about his beauty, and that he's in a good place."
Pedaja will be touring throughout 2017, including March's Tallinn Music Week. He was reluctant to set expectations for the international concert-goers who might be new to his music. "I can't put words in their mouths, but I hope they'll be open to the music. Estonians can sometimes be a little closed, not seeing the forest but instead seeing the tree."
"In the city I think people are usually pretty enthusiastic, but there was one time in the countryside, I can remember playing a gig when I wasn't getting any response from the audience. Sometimes when it's like that, you can feel it, and you feel a bit like a prostitute. But on the other hand, there was another occasion when I was warming up for Jose Gonzales, and everything clicked - it was a great feeling, and one I really enjoyed."
Pedaja's next album is in development, and a growing following will be waiting to hear more music from this new kind of storyteller.
Mick Pedaja plays Tallinn Music Week on 31 March at von Krahl and on 1 April at Kino Sõprus.