Heaven on Earth
New York Post (USA) 16 February 2001
ENYA, the New Age chanteuse, has never given a full concert performance, gingerly sidesteps questions about her personal life and only occasionally gives interviews. Still, this Grammy-winning singer has managed to sell nearly 50 million albums since her record Watermark debuted 13 years ago. Born Eithne Ni Bhraonain in Donegal, Ireland, the classically trained musician with the exquisitely ethereal voice may be the most reluctant of superstars, but when it comes to her music, she is chatty and charming.
Admittedly, she is a very slow songwriter, which accounts for the five-year interval between her last disc and her recently released A Day Without Rain.
On a very rainy day in Los Angeles - where she was attending the premiere of "Sweet November," which features her song "Only Time" - Enya spoke with The Post about her relationships with her fans; her longtime collaborators, Nicky and Roma Ryan; and the music business. As comfortable as she sounded, she remained mum about the woman behind the music.
Post: Your songs seem to be a vehicle for people to get back in touch with themselves. Is that the appeal?
Enya: When I've released a new album, I love when somebody comes up to me and says, "My favorite song is . . ." and then tells me why he relates to it. When people interpret the music through their own emotions, it's really, really moving and encouraging to me.
Post: There is an earthy, natural quality to your melodies that seems to complement sunsets, the ocean, high vistas. Is this intentional?
Enya: It is very hard to analyze a piece of music that way. When I write a melody, I have no idea what it is going to be about. The song is a blank canvas to paint any picture that I want. What evolves is life itself. The melody might illustrate a person I love, a landscape or an emotional moment in my life.
Post: What are the best moments?
Enya: When I finish a melody. That is a moment I love most - I sit back and listen to what I created. I never tire of that moment, but the feeling is quite short - lived because then the work starts again and I have to arrange and perform the music.
Post: Do you ever get writer's block?
Enya: Yes. I class myself as a very slow writer, and sometimes after I finish a song, I think, That's it. I'm not going to ever write again.
Post: Does slow writing go hand in hand with trying to create something perfect?
Enya: Very much so.
Post: One problem with artists who are perfectionists is that they don't know when they are finished with the piece they are working on.
Enya: That's where Nicky comes in on the production side. He knows when he has captured the right performance from me. I may be a perfectionist, but he says when a song is done. I trust him. I have to take his word for it. I'm lucky to have him. Otherwise, I'd probably be in the studio forever.
Post: You've had many successes. Did any of them take you by surprise?
Enya: The success of Watermark took me completely by surprise because I refused to make my music commercial. It was also surprising and wonderful that my record company was willing to take that kind of risk.
Post: You have never performed a full solo concert, but with the release of your latest album, A Day Without Rain, there are rumors that you will.
Enya: In the past, I've had concerns that the rendering of my music on stage wouldn't capture it because I can't play all of the instruments and do all of the voices that the music requires. In a live performance, I'd have to use an orchestra and a chorus. It would be different from the albums. But I'm interested in what it would sound like.
Post: Is a Carnegie hall date a possibility?
Enya: They have been after me. I've been looking for a challenge, and performance is one.
Post: Is there any diva in you?
Enya: I am anxious to talk about the music, but there is a point when I feel I've said what I had to say. Then the focus turns around to me, and that's when I get uncomfortable. I then feel like it's an invasion of my private world.
Post: Your privacy seems to make the public more interested.
Enya: Sure, there are some who want to know personal details of my life, and there are those who are satisfied knowing me through the music.
Post: Has success changed you much?
Enya: It hasn't. That's been important to me. I've always taken the time to stay close to my roots. I go to my hometown and they are all very proud of my success, but they still all treat me as Enya. It's really wonderful and lovely to be with people who know me. It's then I feel like my feet are firmly on the ground and I'm able to keep sight on what's really important - family, friends.
Note: Originally transcribed by Troman.