Enya: Still from Anywhere Is

Out Takes

"Sometimes I think I've written my last song, because it takes so long for the next one to form itself." Enya says. "Even a chord has to be special before I want to use it." "The music is what sells, not me, or what I stand for," she says. "And that's the way I've always wanted it, because I'm extremely private by nature. Many people would have you believe it's impossible to have all this success and not be known publicly. So far, though, we've proved them wrong."

You Can't Hurry Loveliness

Alan Jackson

The Times (UK) 24 November 1995

Floaty, dreamy... and amazingly wealthy: the beguiling Enya
tells us how she does it.

Alan Jackson talks to the painstaking Enya, a legend in her own overtime.

In the HMV megastore on London's Oxford Street this week , the usual hundreds of young record buyers browsed through the racks a little more calmly than usual, the air around them thick with the rich, velvet sounds of the in-house DJ's surprising choice, a new album called The Memory of Trees.

Earlier, in the Top of the Pops studio, the album's maker had found herself a chart presence alongside such disparate fellow musicians as gangsta rapper Coolio and the boys from Blur and Oasis. Cold logic would have it that Enya, whose impressionistic songs are often instrumental or sung in foreign tongues, should not be a pop star. But she is.

Her 1988 debut album Watermark has now sold eight million copies; Shepherd Moons, its 1991 follow-up, has sold nine million. These achievements confirm her fluency in what Van Morrison once termed "the inarticulate speech of the heart".

Enya herself appears distanced from all the fuss. "The music is what sells, not me, or what I stand for." She says. "And that's the way I've always wanted it, because I'm extremely private by nature. Many people would have you believe it's impossible to have all this success and not be known publicly. So far, though, we've proved them wrong."

Her use of the plural is a reference to the two other members of a trinity that exists behind what has virtually become a brand name. Since 1982 the singer and musician, now 34, has worked closely with producer Nicky Ryan and his wife Roma, the lyricist for those tracks that are non-instrumental.

Few artists manage - or choose - to combine high sales with a low profile, but those who do can find their careers operating at a level beyond fad or fashion. The public knows little about Enya, beyond the fact that she comes from Donegal, now lives in Dublin, and was briefly a member of the family group Clannad. Such virtual anonymity offers another benefit - because almost no ego intrudes on her records, audiences can exercise their own imaginations when listening to them. "I find it incredible that a song which, to me, is quite specific in its meaning can inspire such different images and emotions in others, " she says.

"They're delving into the very strong feelings the three of us have invested within the music and, regardless of what we tell them it's about, they're finding something personal in it. It's wonderful to hear of , but is something we can have no control over or awareness of when we're recording."

This can be slow, at times even painful process. For the past two-and-a-half years she has worked six of seven-day weeks in her own studio, composing and recording without the distracting presence of engineers, staff or outside musicians. "And this is what I have achieved," she smiles, gesturing at the 11 titles on The Memory of Trees.

It can take weeks, even months of playing on piano or synthesizer to build up a song, she says. "Sometimes I think I've written my last, because it takes so long for the next one to form itself. Even a chord has to be special before I want to use it. And then I have to work and wait until it leads to something else. But once you have the bones of a good melody, you can begin to enhance it with sound and lyrics..."

This, she does not need to emphasize, is another slow process. Complementing her own background as a classically trained pianist is Ryan's love for the wall-of-sound techniques pioneered by Phil Spector and the Beach Boys. Lead vocals or harmonies may be built up from scores or even hundreds of over-layered parts.

This is not something that can be rushed, as Rob Dickens, of Enya's record company, appreciates only too well. It was he who signed Enya to the label after hearing the original music she and the Ryans had composed for a six-part BBC TV series, The Celts, in the mid-1980s. At the time, New Age music - the category Enya is most often placed in by US radio programmers - had no proven commercial appeal. Now the adjective "Enya-esque" has all but replaced New Age.

She insists, though, that hers is still an essentially Irish music, informed by the geography, myth and melancholy of Donegal. Not that she will spend much time in Ireland over the coming year. The worldwide promotion of her new LP will take up all of 1996. Then after a rest, she and Ryan will cloister themselves in the studio again, to begin the inch-by-inch progress towards her next album.

There have been, she says, "wonderful" offers to score films, but the investment of time would be too great. Similarly, although she is intrigued by the possibility of playing live, she worries about the effect it would have on her writing and recording schedule. "Everything I feel goes into the music," she says. "There's nothing more anyone could know that they can't already hear."

To non-believers, such a statement may be meaningless, but to everyone else it makes total, perfect sense.



Note: Transcriber: Tomás Román