If she is unconventional, it is in a conventional way. Were it not for the obvious quality and expense of her clothes - a satin blouse, Lincoln green woollen dress and matching stockings and shoes - she could pass for an office secretary or an Aer Lingus stewardess.
She explains some of the puzzling press reports that preceded her by saying that she is "too quiet and tame" for the English press. When I say, late in the interview, that she is quite unlike the image I had formed of her from the album and its attendant publicity, she is genuinely surprised. "But what image did you have of me?", she asks. Therein, it seems, lies Enya's innocence.
Sailing Away on a Sensual Sea of Sounds
The Age (Melbourne, Australia) Saturday Extra, April 1, 1989
ENYA NÍ BHRAONÁIN is the voice on,
and composer of, the beguiling album, Watermark.
One critic described Watermark as "music
to dive luxuriantly into and float around in...". It is true. And
after a dozen listenings, the swimmer is both no longer nearer a discernible
shoreline and mysteriously lacking in any desire to leave the water.
That Enya's art has been likened to the call of siren
may, in any part, be due to the fact that no one has succeeded in giving
it a name. Where or what Watermark leads to is unclear but it
is deeply alluring and has already done huge internationally, selling
more than 50,000 copies in the United States alone.
Enya has spent the past six months travelling the world
promoting the album and, for this purpose, recently spent a single afternoon
in Melbourne. She had flown down from Sydney that morning, was returning
to the Harbour City in the evening and leaving the next day for New
Zealand. Our interview was one of five scheduled for south-eastern Australia.
The sleeve of Watermark carries a photograph
of her on a deserted shoreline looking faintly possessed, the skyscape
behind her having been drawn away like a veil to reveal a second sky.
There is another image of her stepping through the shallows in long
woollen dress, like a maiden in a trance. The image is of layered reality,
water spirits, unworldly knowledge - an Irish Sally Oldfield perhaps.
It is slightly surprising, therefore, to meet Enya (a
phonetic spelling of the Gaelic name Eithne). If she is unconventional,
it is in a conventional way. Were it not for the obvious quality and
expense of her clothes - a satin blouse, Lincoln green woollen dress
and matching stockings and shoes - she could pass for an office secretary
or an Aer Lingus stewardess.
She explains some of the puzzling press reports that
preceded her by saying that she is "too quiet and tame" for
the English press. When I say, late in the interview, that she is quite
unlike the image I had formed of her from the album and its attendant
publicity, she is genuinely surprised. "But what image did you
have of me?", she asks. Therein, it seems, lies Enya's innocence.
She is as small as a musk deer and her features are
fine rather than pretty. The fifth of nine children brought up in Gweedore,
County Donegal, her first language is Gaelic. She can, she says, "express
herself so much better in Gaelic". Elsewhere, she has said she
thinks and dreams in the ancient language of her forebears.
Her manner is gentle and precise. "It's wonderful
that people listen to the album,", she says. "It's so nice
that it's greatly appreciated." Despite her exhaustive media schedule,
she enters into the spirit of the interview and talks in detail about
the studio techniques employed by her producer, Nicky Ryan, to create
the Enya "sound". The vocals on the album, which mount like
waves and then recede into the ocean, are constructed from her voice
alone; some tracks she taped 200 or 300 times.
She is a literally minded young woman. Asked about the
spiritual connotations attributed to Watermark, she says she
believes they are due to its "ambient" sound, the cathedral
effect created by Ryan. To her, it is simply music. Asked to elaborate
upon the work of one of her sisters, a visual artist, she declines,
saying, "I am not up in the world of art".
She met Ryan - who, significantly lists Phil "Wall
of Sound" Spector among his influences - when he was working with
the Bhraonáin family band, the internationally acclaimed Clannad. Clannad
was the first prominent Irish group with a traditional base to its music
to dabble with the electrical wizardry of the recording studio. 
Enya has no clear-cut explanation for her family proclivity
for technical invention and innovation. "The family was always
looked upon as being different,", she says. "None of us have
followed the ordinary way. We seem to be more ambitious, a lot more
ambitious, in what we do."
In 1982, Enya left Clannad to work in partnership with
Ryan and Ryan's wife, Roma, who acts as Enya's lyricist. It seems a
momentous step for 19-year-old to have taken but Enya does not see it
in those terms. "It is strange to talk about your life because
you don't feel it is a major step when it happens, when you come to
that pathway and you decide which way to go." 
The Ryan's supported her financially and Enya was left
alone to compose. In her own words, she "started work". She
admits she is not a composer who takes her inspiration from a sense
of place, not even from the sort of coastlines featured on the album
sleeve. "I have to sit and record any idea I have whether it is
the piano, the synthesiser or the voice and then listen back to it."
Her first love is melody and she remembers, as a child
of three or four, hearing the vocal harmonies of the vocal harmonies
of the Mamas and the Papas singing 'Dedicated to the One I Love'. "It
was such a soothing sound," she says. "I don't know how I
feel if I heard it now, but it is a fond memory." Later, she sang
six-part Gaelic harmonies with her siblings.
She sees this experience as being the basis of her attraction
to Ryan's theories of vocal overlay. The partnership has now created
three albums, one of them being the soundtrack for the major BBC documentary
series The Celts. 
Melodies come to her in fragments or wholes and they
are sufficiently strong she "introduces" them to Ryan. "I'd
love to make some music, that people will remember, something they will
take out of their collection now and then and listen to and is not just
for the duration of a few months and then forgotten. I think that's
what the three of us want - to leave a mark."
She is dedicated to her art ("You have to be dedicated
if you're going to spend that long in the studio") and the group's
forthcoming projects. The only direction, says Enya, is that there are
Martin Flanagan, 1989
Note: Transcribed by Mik Lipcsey and posted to rec.music.newage 2 October 1991. His notes:
1. This means she would have travelled some 2800 kilometres going from Sydney to Melbourne and then back to Sydney (and this is only on the south-east corner of Australia). Plus New Zealand is another 1500 kilometres, I think. The things one does to promote an album!!
2. Martin Flanagan is better known to Melbournians as a sports reporter, particularly for Australian Rules Football. But he does reporting on other subjects, like lifestyles, films, television and music. He is known for his flamboyant descriptions of ARF matches, which occasionally infuriate some of the purists, although I like it. The above interview, is pretty much in keeping with his style.
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