Questions to Enya
Interview by Marc TOESCA
TOP 50 Magazine (France) no. 154
We presented her to you in the hopes of TOP 50 Magazine Issue 151 and it hasn't taken very long to this fragile Irishwoman with the disturbing voice to enter our national placings. Enya's first single, 'Orinoco Flow', has already had the opportunity to prove, in other countries, its ability to climb the charts. It is certainly one of the hit songs of the weeks to come, the opportunity for you to discover its interpreter a little better.
Enya, is that your real name?
Yes, my name is Enya Nibhraonain, it's a Gaelic name, "Ni" in Gaelic means "only daughter of" and "Bhraonain" is the same as Brennan in English, so "only daughter of Brennan". There are still some parts of Ireland where one speaks Gaelic and I was born in one of them. Gaelic was my first language, I had to learn English at school, which explains my strong Celtic roots.
You come from a family of musicians, can you tell us about it?
We are nine brothers and sisters, four boys and five girls. Maire, Kieran and Paul and two of my uncles belong to the group Clannad with which I toured for two years. My mother is a music teacher and my father once had a group called the Slieve Foy Dance Band but has since bought a pub... It was a jazz group that he took over when my grandfather died and when he married my mother, she joined the band too.
What is your musical training?
I discovered classical music at school and that has been a real love at first sight. Then, when I was seventeen, I went to a music school to widen my knowledge and the following year I joined the group Clannad as keyboard player and backing singer. It is this experience of two years of touring throughout Europe, the contact with the public, that convinced me to follow this route. But Clannad was more my uncles' group and I wanted to be able to write my own music, less folk influenced. After Clannad I composed music for the cinema and for television until we decided, with Nicky Ryan, my manager/producer, former producer for Clannad, and his wife, Roma, to write a first album of songs.
How do you work?
We are completely cut off from the world, I live with Nicky and Roma in their house where we have our studio. Roma writes the basic lyrics, I write the music and work on the arrangements with Nicky, particularly the multivocal harmonies. On Watermark, my voice was recorded and overdubbed up to sixteen times and then again in several registers of interpretation. We take the time to make each piece as perfect as possible and we are always seeking to experiment with new sounds. I have to sing in a manner that could seem ridiculous on listening to the individual notes, but linked to the rest it becomes interesting. If we succeed in creating something different, I believe it is because I am totally devoted to my music, it's a sacrifice, 100% of my life, 99% would not work.
At moments your music evokes certain religious airs...
It is without doubt the vocal arrangements that give this impression but I don't seek to create this effect, I simply make music without any particular wish to deliver a message.
What is the greatest satisfaction that success has brought you?
When one has worked for months in studio one no longer has any idea of the manner in which the record will be received by the public, so it is very difficult to describe how moving it is that it has been received so well. It is wonderful how each song is perceived differently by different people. I have received many letters from people after they have been touched by such and such a title from the album, for various reasons that they explain to me. It is staggering to what extent three persons can find three different meanings in a song. It seems that my music affects people in a very personal and warm fashion, that gives me great pleasure.
You seem to seek to be at peace with yourself, do you wish you to communicate that to others through your music?
I don't seek to satisfy the public, otherwise that would worry me and make me too self-indulgent. I try above all to put forward a different music for those who wish to hear something else. I hope that my work will encourage composers who are trying to be identical to write different music.
Note: Originally transcribed by Marc Lortet. The French translation is also available here.