Radio Interview: KKSF
Interviewer: Dore Steinberg
KKSF Listener Guide (USA)
Enya's unique cathedral of sound, featuring layer upon layer of hymn-like choral arrangements, has been heard on three albums, including the new Shepherd Moons, as well as in the movies L.A. Story and Green Card. Her intriguing music, alternately soaring and haunting, blends strains of traditional songs from her native Ireland with ethereal electronic textures. She spoke recently with KKSF Music Director Dore Steinberg.
Dore Steinberg: You have such a beautiful, easy to say name. Is it your real name?
Enya: My real name is Eithne, but in Gaelic, which is my first language, we don't pronounce the "th." I knew I was going to have difficulty with this name, so I decided to do the phonetic spelling of it, which is Enya.
Dore Steinberg: Your music's signature sound is multi-layered vocals and harmonies. Take us through the process of how you compose and record a song.
Enya: Basically, I go to the studio and I record my ideas until I feel there's a melody that's going to move me in some way. When I have this melody, I introduce it to my producer, Nicky Ryan, and my lyricist, Roma Ryan, and watch them very carefully to see their reaction because they have to be moved in the same way that I am. When they are, I begin to record it. I listen to the melody and usually do a harmony to it with a sound that feels very natural for me to sing. Then Nicky will place it into my left ear in the headphones and I'll sing the same part again until Nicky feels he has the right sound for this part. I actually get lost in a world of all these vocals revolving around in my headphones. They're my own voice and I sing against them and add to it. For me, it's very hypnotic and quite magical.
Dore Steinberg: How do you decide the balance between Gaelic and English lyrics? In many of your songs you have both along with Latin.
Enya: The melody's what matters most. The lyrics have to revolve around the melody, and quite often English is too much of a burden on the melody, so we try Gaelic or then Latin because singing hymns when I was young I loved the sound of Latin words. They're very beautiful. Roma loves looking up very old Latin names. For example, the title of 'Afer Ventus' is an old Latin name for a wind. It came about because the melody lines of the song weaved in between each other and caused a wind-like effect. She always gets her inspirations from the sound of the music itself.
Dore Steinberg: The trait that's most consistent in your music is harmonizing. Was that part of your upbringing?
Enya: From an early age, I always heard music around me because both of my parents are musical. One of the songs was by The Mamas and The Papas, and it was the harmony that fascinated me. It was very beautiful, and also very soothing. Later on, I was involved in singing competitions. They has a lot of them in the area where I grew up. There was a section where the whole family would be involved in the competition, and we would do a four-part harmony. It became second nature to us that we would automatically sing a harmony when we heard a melody.
Dore Steinberg: Your brothers and sisters are also professional musicians. Were they all part of this too?
Enya: Yes. While I was at boarding school studying classical music, some of my brothers and sisters formed a band called Clannad. When I left boarding school, I intended to continue studying classical music and become a teacher, but I was asked by Nicky Ryan to join my family and to play keyboards with them. I spent two years with them. We did arrangements of Irish traditional music; I didn't compose at the time.
Dore Steinberg: In your stint with Clannad, what stayed with you in terms of helping you with you solo career?
Enya: I enjoyed being on stage. That's something that I miss very much. But I know the difficulties involved with getting my music on stage. It's not possible to emulate the same sound for a stage because of the fact that I perform all of the music on the album. I'd like to have all acoustic live instruments with me, so I wouldn't feel very comfortable being up there with just tapes and myself on stage. It would be really nice to arrange it for stage in a way that I'd have an orchestra, a choir and keyboard players and I'd be out front. It's been suggested that we do a one-hour TV show and bring it to a church, cathedral or some stage. Right now we're only speculating on what would work.
Dore Steinberg: On the Watermark album, there's a song called 'On Your Shore' that features an oboe and is breathtakingly beautiful.
Enya: I can easily talk about this one because it's my favorite on the album. This shore is at home in Donegal and it's a beautiful beach called Magheragelvin. I spent a lot of my childhood at this beach and when I walk along it, I have very fond memories but also sad memories. Beside the beach there's a graveyard where a lot of people I knew rest, my grandparents especially. On Your Shore is about the wonderful and sad thoughts that went through my head as I walked along the beach.
Note: Transcribed by Tom Phelps and posted to alt.music.enya on May 19, 1992.