Stage Beckons Enya
The Press (Christchurch, New Zealand) 30 March 2001
After resisting a return to the stage for nearly 20 years, Irish recording phenomenon Enya is planning a live telecast that could lead to her touring with orchestra and choristers.
"Nicky Ryan, my producer, is very anxious that we do live performances," she said this week from Sydney. "But I have to say it would be a rendering of the music.
"In the studio I'm the sole musician and sole singer, but the big sound on stage is going to entail a lot of people. We are talking about an orchestra, choirs, and other musicians -- and there is the visual aspect to which the music lends itself."
The Donegal diva has just passed 50 million in album sales, and is in a league shared only by a few other female artists such as Madonna, Cher, and Whitney Houston. Enya, as somebody who does not peform live, is an individual quite different from the rest. She has shunned publicity about her private life, and usually avoided other media exposure until the release of each new album for which she has painstakingly overdubbed her own voice and instrumentation in her Dublin studio.
"At the moment we are talking about the end of the year for a live TV special -- and then sitting back and thinking, 'OK, how about going on tour with this?'" says Enya. "As you know, I very much take everything step by step. I would like to think it's part of my choice and be very comfortable about it. I am very excited."
Nicky Ryan's influence in the matter, she says, lines up with his background on the road with many bands. A former manager of Clannad, in which the classically trained Enya toured with relatives after leaving her home village of Gweedore, County Donegal, in 1980, he was fascinated with the wall-of-sound techniques of Phil Spector and the Beach Boys. That was a factor in Enya joining Ryan and his wife, Roma (still Enya's lyricist), in 1982, to treat her voice like an instrument with multi- layering.
"The melodies and lyrics are all middle story -- it's me expressing an emotional feeling at that moment," says Enya. "When I write a melody, I go to the studio without any set plan. I can then sit back and listen and decide if it's working. There is an awful lot of trial and error.
"Fallen Embers (from her latest album, A Day Without Rain) is now a little bit of a favourite with me because it's a reflection of having had love and lost it -- and how it's wonderful to have experienced it."
Are you talking about your personal life?
"The theme is very universal -- and very personal. It kind of conjures up, too, people who have passed on and whom I loved dearly. It's very emotional for me."
One of nine children, Enya grew up with Irish Gaelic her first language in an Irish-speaking district in Ireland's north-west as Eithne Ni Bhraonain (Enya Brennan in Anglicised phonetic spelling form). She is named after the goddess Eithne.
No pressure over children
Enya, who turns 40 in May, does not have any children of her own - - "if it happens ... or if it doesn't happen ... that's fine. I'm very happy. I have made sacrifices for music, but that's fine, too. Whatever is going to happen will happen -- I don't intend putting pressure on myself."
The starkly beautiful Enya is about to move into her new home, a "small Victorian" castle, in a Dublin suburb, which she restored after a fire. "It looks like a castle from the outside, but inside it's a home. There are no ballrooms or anything like that."
A Day Without Rain is her first studio album for five years, an indication of a fair amount of that time having been spent building up each song. She plays all the instruments on her recordings and in the past has overdubbed as many as 140 vocal tracks for a single song.
Six million copies of A Day Without Rain have been sold, and one of the tracks, "Only Time", was snapped up for the new Keanu Reeves movie, Sweet November.
"I like to start my day by going for a walk," says Enya, "and on the particular day I went to the studio to write the title track, I said to Roma Ryan, 'A day without rain -- it wasn't raining today'. I thought, 'What a great title'. When you look through the window, it's very much open to the individual for a great deal of interpretation."
She sings "Tempus Vernum" in Latin, having decided that the piece had a very classic feel for which Gaelic was too soft -- and that English, too, would be unsuited. Irish Gaelic, very important to Enya as a living language, comes into play in "Deora Ar Mo Chroi" (Tears On My Heart).
Critics over the years have variously categorised Enya's work as New Age (equates to old school for the Irish), pop, and even classical, but mostly they admit she has created her own genre. Some say, too, that the same formula carries on from album to album -- lacing Celtic tunes with haunting melodies and multi-layered vocals with a lullaby effect.
Meanwhile, Enya is adamant that there is no set formula and each track in her evolution method is quite different. "I'll never get tired of writing music," she says.
Many fans around the world, including those in Japan, perceive healing qualities in the ethereal Celtic soundscapes and angelic voice. The Best of Enya compilation was the first non-Japanese album to top a million sales for any on the Warner label in Japan.
"For me it's not a pop scene," says Enya, "with teenagers crowding outside the hotel wanting to glimpse you, but I get mail from people of all ages who listen to my music. I also get respect from the same people who appreciate that I like my privacy."
Roma Ryan says that Enya is still the same "down-to-earth" and "good-natured" person who lived in her Dublin home in the 1980s. And the folks back in remote Gweedore say that Enya has not changed one iota. She likes returning for visits -- her parents have a pub there -- to catch up with everyone. "They are so proud of my success, but they all still treat me as the same Enya," she says. "It's great to keep one's feet firmly on the ground and never lose sight of who I am as a person."
A Day Without Rain. Two singles from the album, "Only Time" and "Wild Child", have also been released in New Zealand.
Note: Transcribed by Harry S.