Sunday Tribune (Ireland) 3 November 1991
Enya in the flesh is a porcelain pretty as she is presented in the carefully constructed, paintbox videos promoting her new album Shepherd Moons (WEA).
Her image in both visual and aural media is that of a fragile, fairy-tale crown princess, singing songs of mystical melancholia, creating an atmosphere of glacial calm amidst the thunder and lightning of real life.
Quiet-spoken, thoughtful and measured, giving little away, what she says isn't exactly the stuff that clichés are made of, but neither have they the substance of truly original thought. Like her music, it seems that Enya finds it difficult to distinguish between art and artifice.
Yet she says of herself that she gives one hundred percent in interview and artistic situations. If she doesn't, it bothers her. She thinks if she didn't give of her best the negativity of the encounter would come back to her in some way. Very karmic and not at all rooted in the plain soil of Donegal, Enya's birthplace. Her gentility, sincerity and honesty, however, are.
"I feel what you see is what Enya is about", says Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, initially a member of the Clannad "family" until she left the group and started working with Nicky and Roma Ryan (themselves then a peripheral part of the Donegal traditional unit and now - somewhat more integrally - Enya's producer and lyricist, respectively).
"I'm a very shy and private person," says Enya. "The only way I really open up emotionally is through music. I feel that's enough. This is very, very personal. You can hear that through the music."
If the music is as public as Enya wants to get, her private life remains private. In many ways, it seems as if the "image" of Enya is all important and is all the public is going to see. "I've always been concerned with the image that's been portrayed for the album," says Enya. "I've always liked the idea that it's classic because I find the music has, I hope, a classic feel to it. So I enjoy the image portrayed on the album--it's very much something I'm happy with. If I wasn't, it wouldn't be there, because I have a lot of say as far as how 'Enya' is presented."
But Enya is presented as being other-worldly, straight out of a time honoured fable, a controlled projection apparently at odds with her own marketing strategy. Is she really as fragile as she's made out to be?
Her genuine civility in conversation suggests she is, but Enya is having none of that. "I'm much, much calmer now than when I'm in the studio. I'm a very emotional person and I can be very difficult. When I'm angry I put it toward my music in a positive way. Sometimes it's difficult and I shout instead and say what I feel."
This anger stems, says Enya, from a lack of confidence - difficult to believe when you take into account that her debut album, Watermark (WEA) has sold over four million copies. "You feel much more positive after expressing your feelings. Some of my best work is done after this."
Some of Enya's best work is on Shepherd Moons (WEA). Like all her previous music output (her soundtrack for David Puttnam's The Frog Prince, BBC's The Celts and her debut album), Enya's latest material is invested with no small degree of studio care and attention.
If you like mournful music that is swathed in vast cloaks of production techniques and overdubbed vocals and keyboards then Shepherd Moons is for you. In truth, there is something quite beautiful about the music - it's perfect for watching waves lapping on a sandy shore, or for pursuing sheep grazing in a green field - but there's also something decidedly unnatural about it. It's as contrived as it is elemental. Texturally it's the epitome of state-of-the-art studio craft. Emotionally, it lacks bite. It's too soothing, too pretty. Enya, however, disagrees that her music lacks emotion.
"It's something it definitely has," she says. "It doesn't have a love song that cries out "Love me, baby, love me". What it has is a melody which I think will go into your own emotion and stir up something from within. The main purpose that Nicky, Roma and I have is that the music sounds beautiful."
When asked whether she is a desired person in pop-star terms in the same manner as her one-name female peers would be, Enya says almost coyly, "I know there are some people who admire what I do. I meet with some of them, but it's strange meeting them because they just talk about music, or how I work. They want to talk to me about giving them advice, so it's never really on a scale where Madonna or Cher would have it. Their image is very important to them."
But their image is deliberately sexually-based? "It is," says Enya, "but they hype to sell their music and they're happy to do that. The risk factor in that is they're selling themselves and, therefore, they're more prone to men's desires than I would be. I don't have to sell the music -- it doesn't concentrate on hype. That's really important to me, because I can be totally myself. Usually, people just want to talk about the music, even if they admire me, if they feel an attraction to me."
Does this imply that Enya's music is sexless? It's an opinion that Enya doesn't dismiss, but she does refute it somewhat by saying, "I remember being told that the music is quite sexy. I think it's dependent on the individual. What would turn on someone could easily turn off someone else."
Enya is a more forceful person that she was three years ago. She's more aware of the power of her music and the power of marketing. The combination of the two has made her an international name to be reckoned with.
She's a lot more confident, too. "Now, I can enjoy being Enya more," she says, with a degree of docile seriousness. "I appreciate what it is that I do, whereas sometimes in the past I might have been dependent on other people saying this or that to me. At the beginning of all this, I was wondering what I was about, looking for what makes a person happy. I now know what makes me happy -- it's to do with my main ambition, which is taking my music seriously. It's important that I leave behind music that I believe in, making my mark."
Note:Transcribed by Tracey S. Rosenberg, and posted to Posted to alt.music.enya 22 July 1993.