Enya: Woman's Hour Interview
Jenni Murray, Interviewer
BBC Radio 4, 22 November 2005**
Jenni Murray: Now Enya started out with her family band Clannad when she was still a teenager; in the mid-80's she went solo and was a surprising commercial hit - she's sold 65 million albums worldwide which makes her one of the world's biggest selling artists even though she never tours and spends years in the studio between each new release. Well her latest, Amarantine, comes out this week. In the past she's sung in Gaelic, Latin, Spanish and Elvish; the new album has tracks in Japanese and Loxian. I asked her to explain what Loxian is.
Enya: Loxian is a fictional language that was created for this album, and I suppose it goes back to working on Lord Of The Rings, which was a fantastic project. And when the director Peter Jackson asked me would I love to be involved, absolutely yes, I'd written - I'd read the book when I was 17 years of age and - the next I knew I was being flown to New Zealand and seeing the rough cuts and it was kind of..we spoke about it that it would be nice to include Tolkein's fictional language. I suppose because my first language was Gaelic I always feel that when the melody sounds right with whatever language I feel fine, you know when people sort of say 'Well why do you sing in other languages' I say 'why not?' simply, you know, it actually suits that melody...
JM: Well, let’s hear 'Less than a Pearl' and then we’ll talk about how Loxian, and Elvish which is [Enya: yes, yes] what you sang for Lord of the Rings are rooted, but let's hear [ok] Less Than a Pearl first
30 secs of LTAP
Enya: We do spend a lot of time looking for the right language for the melody that I've written and English can be a little bit kind of obtrusive and even though the lyrics are always written in English it's nice to be able to adapt into whatever language sounds better with the actual melody. So Roma came up with this fictional language that she called Loxian and one of the first songs was Water Sh-shows the hidden heart and I tried it in English, in Gaelic, in Latin and then she came in with the fictional language, the first line being [first line] and I thought 'that's going to suit that song'
JM: Does it bear any resemblance to any other language that we might know [laughs] or is it completely strange?
Enya: It's - the main influence would be from the sounds that I would actually sing. When I've finished writing a melody – and I take a long time writing a melody (!) - and when I'm performing it to Roma and to the producer Nicky Ryan I want to sort of see can they sort of grasp what I am trying to emotionally sort of get across...
JM: You mentioned Roma and Nick, and you work very closely with them [Enya: 'yes, we have'] they’re a husband and wife team; how does the partnership work?
Enya: It's...I started writing, um, about twenty years ago, and they believed in the first melody I Had written, and they encouraged me so much, and also I had written instrumental music firstly, and I started in soundtrack. I worked with the BBC on the Celts, which was a fantastic project, and during working on the Celts they asked me to - they wanted a song, and I thought ' wow, I haven't written a song as of yet' so I was writing the melody and Roma started writing some ideas, and she loves poetry, mythology, so she was able to sort of do this beautiful rendering of sort of, th- what I was trying to say in the melody to try and express that with her lyrics. So the way we worked together has kind of been a very slow process, like working with Nicky, he had these ideas, um, to take my voice and use it like an instrument, and so he would sort of ask me to sing the same part again, again, again, and then he'd say 'now try a harmony, any harmony' so it's still to this day, it's something that 's quite new because for each melody it requires something different. So you can't go in and sort of know what the song is gonna be about, what the language is gonna be and what the arrangement's gonna be so that's why an Enya album [laughing] takes that time!
JM: [Chuckles] Five years since the last one, I was going to ask you why it took [Enya: 'yeess'] such a long time. Let's hear the song that I suppose you're best known for, Orinoco Flow [Enya: 'mmm']
40 secs of Orinoco Flow plays
JM:Now that was 17 years ago. What's it like to keep on hearing it again and again?
Enya: I have to say it's an advantage of spending so much time in the studio, because the end result is something that I'm very happy with, so there's nothing I would change with the song. And when I hear a song, so many years later, I relive that whole song, so I enjoy it.
JM: The chairman of Warner Brothers famously said of you that, that the company was there to make money and sometimes to make music, and you were the latter. So how surprised were you when you sold 65 million albums?
Enya: I was totally taken back by the success because when you, when you think about it I'm in the studio like this album it wasn't five years it was two, over two years, but I find that to do something that you love very much and to dedicate all the time to the music, but what I do is with each album is I forget the success and I forget the listeners and I concentrate on the music, I don’t want to create when I go into the studio another 12 Orinoco Flows or 12 Caribbean Blues, I want to kind of move on for me, so I create 12 new stories for me, you know, that I kind of, in some way, feel a challenge musically. So therefore I have to say that my albums, like this one, it feels like my first album again, because I've no idea, you know, after such a gap of five years, who the listeners, who are they gonna be, and I have to sort of say a big [laughing] thank you to the people who are so patient you know for the albums as well.
JM: But you don't do concert tours [Enya: 'mmm'] and rarely do public appearances; why, [mmm] don't you owe that to those fans...a little bit?
Enya: What has happened with not doing concerts was when I had finished the album Watermark and I sat with Rob Dickins and he talked about 'now we're touring' and that's what every artist does, but what they sent me on was this promotional trip around the world, and as the album was being released it had a wide sort of success you know around the world, so I promoted that album for nearly a year, but before I'd signed with Warner Brothers Music I had the agreement that I needed quite a time putting an album together so they were quite anxious about the next album, so they felt they’d surpassed their sales, and they sort of said, you don't need to tour [laughs], go in and work on the next album.".
JM: Do you not like performing live?
Enya: I do, I spent two years, like on the road, but I felt it was important because I spent so long doing the promotional trip, and if I were to write more music I actually needed time to get back to my own life, it's very difficult to write this music if you spend, try to spend your whole life in the public eye.
JM: I was talking to Enya
Note: The interview is still online at the BBC Radio 4-Woman's Hour website. You can Listen Again Here!