Enya: b/w publicity still.  Hands on table

 

Queen of the Castle

Robert Faulkner, Entertainment Reporter

The Star (Toronto, Canada) 8 December 2000

Success turned singer into Ireland's 62nd richest person

The unassuming Enya is not your typical million-dollar songstress.

She doesn't do the party scene, preferring to rival Cher and Madonna in record sales, if not star power. She has never performed in concert. She's okay with seeming aloof, putting her music first.

"Just because you sell music doesn't mean there's a manual that says, 'Because you're successful, you must be at such-and-such restaurant,' '' says the velvet-clad Enya, 39, who was in Toronto this week to promote her latest CD, A Day Without Rain.

"It's important not to lose sight of who you are. I feel that can happen if you live a false lifestyle . . . But it's not like I'm locked away.''

Still, Enya and company - the singer, her producer Nicky Ryan and his lyricist wife, Roma - waited five years to put out a new album. Following her 1995 Grammy winner The Memory Of Trees, A Day Without Rain is what many expected from the Gael: layered vocals, multilingual lyrics and grandiose soundscapes.

The disc has gone platinum in Canada, selling more than 100,000 copies, since its release Nov. 21. It has also had a rough ride with critics. Some called it "muddled mysticism.'' Rolling Stone pegged it as the aural equivalent of Jigglypuff, the Pokeman character that sings you to sleep.

"I'm happy with the album,'' the otherworldly Irish chanteuse responds. "It has a very positive feel for me. It's five years later and my life has changed. I've been asking a lot of questions and answering them in my music. A lot of reflection has gone on.''

Put simply: Enya doesn't need musical advice from ink-stained wretches.

Born Eithne Ni Bhraonain, in the Gaelic-speaking Irish town of Gweedore, the dark-eyed woman was raised on music. The daughter of a bandleader father and a music-teacher mother, she played keyboards and sang with her siblings in the acclaimed folk-rock band Clannad.

Then she went solo, seeking independence.

After laying tracks for the BBC-TV series The Celts, Enya put out her innovative debut Watermark in 1988. The CD featured the international hit single, "Orinoco Flow,'' that introduced her to millions.

"It was a wonderful feeling,'' she says of the success. "I had no idea who the audience was going to be. Encouragement-wise, it was huge.''

The solo album began an astounding march of numbers: Together, Enya's non-soundtrack albums have sold 44 million copies worldwide, two million of those in Canada. Success triggered a cash avalanche that, according to the British press, turned Enya into Ireland's 62nd richest person.

That's how a Gaelic girl became queen of her very own castle, a Gothic home she's in the middle of restoring.

Enya's $5.5 million future home is south of Dublin: Is the granite wall up? Are the "aluminium'' windows replaced? Is the interior more Victorian vintage than vintage shop yet?

"In 1998, when I started working on this album, I sat down with the architect. I had worked out what I wanted and I wanted him to do some research (on) cornices, fireplaces . . . to bring it back to what it should look like.'' She bought 160-year-old Ayesha Castle in 1997, and three years later, builders are still there. It overlooks the Wicklow Mountains on one side and the Irish Sea on the other.

And if you look down, you can see the hideaway of U2 frontman Bono. He's the Irish star known for his bug-eye shades and front-page social activism.