Enya: wearing black cloak, photographed on Killiney Hill.

Out Takes

"I was real leery of the record business," she recalls. "It's so fickle - so tough. Also, I didn't know if music like mine, which is very offbeat, would sell very much."


Dennis Hunt

Montreal Gazette (Canada) 8 March 1992

The Mistress of Melody, the New Age Sinéad O'Connor.

That's what some fans are calling singer-songwriter Enya, whose solemn, enigmatic songs are rooted in traditional Irish music. Though the resident of Ireland sings a few fairly standard ballads, most of her music sounds like nothing else on the pop charts.

Her solo albums - the 1988 release Watermark and her current Shepherd Moons - are New Age verging on classical and religious, with strains of old Irish folk woven in, along with hymn-like choral arrangements. And those are the more conventional elements.

Gaelic lyrics

Shepherd Moons even features Gaelic lyrics.

When Enya sings some of these solemn, ethereal songs, she sounds somewhat like a subdued O'Connor.

To some extent, her music fits the New Age profile. What's surprising is that she has struck a chord with so many pop fans.

Shepherd Moons, which appears often on the eXpress Top 10 list, is the current top-selling album for Warner Bros. Records, with worldwide sales hitting 3 million copies.

Watermark, which featured the hit single 'Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)', has sold more than 4 million copies.

Enya's appeal extends beyond pop and New Age. 'Caribbean Blue', a song from the new album, is getting extensive airplay on some alternative-rock stations.

How does she explain her large, loyal following?

"Maybe it's because the music fits a lot of moods," the 30-year-old artist says. "But it really fits melancholy moods. It evokes all of these sad feelings. Maybe this music works for people in those moods. It fits quiet, thoughtful moods, too. This is what people tell me anyway. I don't write it to fit anyone's moods."

Enya, whose last name is Ní Bhraonáin, agrees that the dominant feature of her music is the haunting melodies, which she discussed in tones verging on ecstasy.

"To me there's nothing like a pretty melody," says Enya, who is gentle and tranquil - almost the personification of her music.

"You get this soaring feeling when you hear one. It creeps into your heart and soul and taps all these emotions.

"My melodies have the feel of traditional Irish music. They're the real strength of my music - the real backbone. It almost doesn't matter what the lyrics sound like. Nothing happens until there's a melody."

Enya is the main cog in a small musical team. She writes the melodies, and producer Nicky Ryan arranges them. Ryan's wife, lyricist Roma, writes the words in English. Enya sometimes translates them into Gaelic, her first language.

A native of Ireland's Donegal County, where Gaelic is still spoken, she had to go to school to learn English. Enya is the literal English translation of her real first name, Eithne.

Enya is classically trained and plays nearly all the instruments on her albums. She started out playing synthesizer in Clannad, an Irish group composed of her family members, in the early '80s.

Urged her to branch out

But the Ryans urged her to branch out into soundtracks. Two assignments, the 1985 feature The Frog Prince and the BBC TV series The Celts, led to an Atlantic Records deal for her first pop-oriented album, Enya.

"I was real leery of the record business," she recalls. "It's so fickle - so tough. Also, I didn't know if music like mine, which is very offbeat, would sell very much."

Her record sales might be even better if she had a higher profile in North America - which would mean going on tour.

But she's wary of going on the road, saying, "I'm not sure how much this music lends itself to a visual performance."

She adds: "I prefer being private. Not too many people know what I look like. If I went on tour, that would change. I'm not so sure I'd like that."

Note: Transcribed by Tom McClintock. This article is similar to another by the same author that appeared a few weeks earlier in Los Angeles Times..