Enya...the very mention of her name brings to mind soothing melodies and beautiful lyrics.
Eithne Ní Bhraonain (ainya nee vreenine) was born on May 17, 1961 in Gweedore (Ghaoth Dobhair), County Donegal, Ireland. "It's right on the coast with beautiful beaches, mountains, valleys and cliffs. It's really wild because of the weather. It's always raining. Everything's green and fresh and so quiet," Enya said of Gweedore in a 1988 interview (Senior). She is the fourth youngest of nine siblings; later sibs Máire, Pol, and Ciaran formed the band Clannad along with uncles Noel and Padraig Duggan. Growing up, "the house was always open to music," said sister Máire in the Fuaim album liner notes. Enya attended boarding school until she was 17 and recalls, "I felt very protected and loved in the family, and depended on other people to make decisions for me. But I went to boarding school at 12, and from that point became very independent" (Gritten). She joined Clannad when she graduated. Unfortunately, as the group had already been performing for quite some time before she joined, Enya's inclusion in the band was less than celebrated. She played the keyboard on a few of their songs on two albums, Crann Ull and Fuaim. The latter was the only album to have her credited for playing the keyboard. She plays the keyboard (on every song, not just this one!) and sings lead vocals on 'An Túll', a fun, catchy song that is in stark contrast to the soothing, sophisticated music Enya composes now - but it's good, old-fashioned Irish folk, and is worth a listen even if you have not become a Clannad fan yet!
Enya left Clannad in 1982 to pursue greater things on the advice of the band's then-producer Nicky Ryan. "The whole Clannad involvement has been so distorted over time. The fact is, at the time I took up with Clannad, Nicky and Roma were managing them. It was Nicky who invited me to join the group. It was after Nicky and Roma ceased to be a part of Clannad that I left the group. I did not want to be part of the group without having them in charge, so I left [Clannad] and entrusted my future to Nicky and Roma, which obviously proved to be a very wise decision. Initially, I lived at their home in Dublin, which made sense as they had a studio there where I could develop my music," Enya says of her involvement ("On Her Shore..."). Ryan had the idea to layer one voice upon another using a synthesizer, and felt that Enya had the greatest potential to try it out. He was right--Enya was chosen to write and perform the music for the BBC television documentary "The Celts" in 1987. From then on Enya has been joined up with Ryan and his wife Roma. Roma is the extremely talented lyricist for Enya's songs. However, Enya does her own music. Enya decided to use the phonetic spelling of her name because she felt that the name Eithne would be hard to pronounce and recognize for those not acquainted with the Irish language. "At the beginning, I found Eithne was difficult for people to say 'Enya' with because it's Gaelic and the 'th' in Gaelic we don't pronounce, so I was always known as 'Enya'. And, I did a phonetic spelling of this name so as I would always be called 'Enya'. But the second part is very difficult, it's "Ní Bhraonáin", so I decided to keep it brief, and just keep 'Enya'. So when everybody says Enya you are speaking a little bit of Gaelic," says Enya about her name.
In 1987, Enya put out a self-titled album with the songs from "The Celts". This was later remastered and re-released in 1993 as The Celts. Enya's "big break" was the album Watermark, which included the worldwide smash hit "Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)". The instant celebrity managed to keep her private life out of the spotlight. People know Enya's music, not her, and according to a 1996 interview with CNN, she thinks that is "...really good". That doesn't mean that Enya is a recluse; indeed, Enya insists that she is "not reclusive. I just have a private life" (Gritten). Enya enjoys her private life in her Victorian six-bedroom Ayesha Castle in Killiney, Ireland. Of her home, she says, "It's very homely, this castle. It doesn't have huge ballrooms. I didn't want a cold, cavernous place" (Gritten).
Since 1988, Enya has released six albums (not including Enya, which is pretty much the same as The Celts but harder to find) -- Watermark, Shepherd Moons, The Celts, The Memory of Trees, and the compilation album Paint the Sky With Stars -The Best of Enya. The newest album is A Day Without Rain. Two new songs were also released on The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack in 2001: "Aniron" and "May it Be". "May it Be" was released as a single, but "Aniron" can only be, as far as I know, found on the soundtrack.
There is always a bit of a wait between albums, but Enya's description of her musical process in an interview in 1992 gives a bit of insight into the long periods of time between releases: "Basically, I go to the studio and I record my ideas until I feel there's a melody that's going to move me in some way. When I have this melody, I introduce it to my producer... and my lyricist... and watch them very carefully to see their reaction because they have to be moved in the same was that I am. When they are, I begin to record it. I listen to the melody and usually do a harmony to it with a sound that feels very natural for me to sing. Then Nicky will place it into my left ear in the headphones and I'll sing the same part again until Nicky feels he has the right sound for this part. I actually get lost in a world of all these vocals revolving around in my headphones. They're my own voice and I sing against them and add to it. For me, it's very hypnotic and quite magical" ("Enya").
I have been an Enya fan for a long time now, and I am still continually in awe of her music! It is hard to fathom how only three people, with Enya at the helm, can produce such wondrous music, sounds, moods.... It was only several years ago that I discovered The Memory of Trees and was swept up into the world of Enya. And what a nifty world it is! :)