MuchMusic TV Interview
Christopher Ward:, Interviewer
MuchMusic (Canada) CityLimits - Winter 1988
Christopher Ward: [facing camera] Please welcome to the studio... Enya. [turns to Enya] How are you doing?
Enya: I'm fine.
Christopher Ward: Very nice to have you here.
Enya: It's nice to be here.
Christopher Ward: Can you tell me what your full name is? I saw it in print and it's never something I could possibly pronounce.
[Text, under Enya's face: Eithne Ní Bhraonáin]
Enya: I thought you were going to attempt the full version. [chuckles] It's "ehn-yah niy vriy-nayn," and it's Gaelic...
Christopher Ward: [interjecting a "noddy" quietly] Right.
Enya: ...and "Ní" means "daughter of" and "Bhraonáin" means "Brennan", so it's "Enya, daughter of Brennan."
Christopher Ward: Oh, I see. The record Watermark, it's a beautiful album, and I don't know how many of our viewers are familiar with it yet. They're a little bit familiar through the video and single of Orinoco Flow. Did you intentionally set out to make a record that kind of flies in the face of fashion [Enya starts shaking her head] that runs against the grain?
Enya: No, there was no idea, like, the three, there's three of us: there's Nicky Ryan, who's producer and co-arranger with me, and his wife Roma, who does the lyrics. And we basically spent ten months in a studio, in Nicky's studio at home, and we just cut ourselves off completely and just worked on what we wanted to do. So we had no idea how the public were going to react to the music.
Christopher Ward: Is that necessary for you, in order to create, in the purest sense, just to isolate yourself from other forms of popular music and culture?
Enya: Yeah, it is, for me, because of, especially on this album, where I play and I sing all the parts. And composing it, it takes so much time. So, and it's also necessary not to have any other influences from outside. So we tend to just work on our own, and we're very happy with that.
Christopher Ward: The song, Orinoco Flow, I think, is probably a good symbol for what the rest of the record is like, in terms of giving people an idea of musically what you do. It sounds extremely layered and textured and it's one of those songs that just seems to kind of flow by you, literally. Now, when you go about constructing a song like that, right from the outset, from writing it and then recording it, what is that process like? Can you describe that to us?
Enya: It could vary, from so many different tracks. Some of them, a song, it's influenced by my feelings, but for some tracks, like Orinoco Flow, those, it started from the sound, from the pizzicato sound, and it was Nicky that said "This is great, let's compose a piece of music with this sound." So we put down a chord sequence, we built it up with the vocals, the hundreds of vocals sung in free time, and then we came to, the first section we had was the chorus, and it was "Sail away, sail away, sail away..." So the verse happened last. And when Roma was doing the lyrics, she thought the "sail away" was so positive that it would be nice to relate the whole song to someone sailing all over the world. So Nicky said, "That's a great idea," but he said the rhythm reminded him of a children's skipping song, and he said to her, "It would be nice if each port or river or place had a rhythm in it, or else it rhymed." So hence, the "Or-in-o-co Flow" or "From Bali to Cali, from Peru to Cebu." Basically, we worked on it as a fun song.
Christopher Ward: That's not a traditional way of composing or recording, is it?
Enya: Well, we have a way, on Watermark, we treated each track as very, very separate. The title track, Watermark, is a piano piece, instrumental. And we had a [I cannot make out three or four words of what she says here, sounds like "one to two item"] piano piece, and once we'd finished, we set it aside and we said, "Let's do something very different to this." So we did 'Cursum Perficio', a choral piece sung in Latin. So then after finishing that, we set that aside and said, "Let's do something else that's different." So we were always looking for something different. And the strange thing was, when we finished the album and we were doing a format, this theme of water was inherent in the lyrics and the titles, and we weren't aware of this at all. It was just a nice coincidence.
Christopher Ward: Let's take a look at the video for Orinoco Flow. Can you tell us anything about the making of this?
Enya: I worked with a director named Michael Georgehan, and I spent just one day with him, believe it or not, and I was shot with just the blue backdrop, and then he went and spent five weeks with four artists, where they hand-painted a lot of the imagery with me, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the end-product.
Christopher Ward: [Nods, turns to the camera] Here's Orinoco Flow, from Enya, on CityLimits.
[Orinoco Flow, one of the most visually stunning videos your humble editor has ever seen, is played]
That is Orinoco Flow, the album Watermark, and the artist Enya, who is my guest today. [Turns back to Enya] There's something about the lyric content in that that suggests this dreamlike quality. Do you think that she ever writes the lyrics from dreams? Do they ever have that origin?
Enya: Well, she made up a few places, like The Island of the Moon, and the Isles of Ebony. That's her daughter, Ebony. So some of the places were made up, very romantic places.
Christopher Ward: There is, for me, a sort of spiritual quality to this album, and I mean that only in a positive sense, but it also reminds me of almost religious music at times, too, like a meditative, prayer-like quality. There's also something that relates to almost ambient music about this, some of maybe Brian Eno's experiments and that sort of thing. Do you relate to any of those sources?
Enya: Not... I'm not really aware of Brian Eno's music, but where you get the ambient sound is from the amount of reverb we use - we like to use an awful lot [quick smile] - and it gives this overall warmness to the music, and especially to my vocals, the multi-vocals.
Christopher Ward: You described the multi-layering of the vocals. I mean, for example, in Orinoco Flow, how many tracks of
Enya:are there on there?
Enya: I think after a hundred vocals, I stopped counting. I mean, I forget how many. There's so many. We just keep singing over and over, and tracking, until we come to this particular sound. And then we stop.
Christopher Ward: You must have perfect pitch.
Enya: Yes, from singing a lot, especially multi-vocal, it actually trains your voice as well. From holding long notes, from doing staccato, arpeggiating. So it helps me, my voice.
Christopher Ward: Can you take this music on the road? Or will you?
Enya: We will take it on the road, but when is the question, because it's taking off in so many countries, and we're having to do so much promotion at the moment. So, it is possible, but we have to get the right people on stage with me, so that would take a bit of rehearsals, so I don't know when that would be, but I'd love to take it on the road.
Christopher Ward: Please come to Canada when you do.
Enya: I will. Definitely. [As far as your humble Canadian editor knows, this never came to pass. Unfortunate.]
Christopher Ward: This is your first trip to North America. What was the one thing you were looking forward to seeing in North America? [Sightseeing. He's talking to Enya about sightseeing... Agh.]
Enya: North America...
Christopher Ward: Was it the Statue of Liberty, or...
Enya: No, I just wanted to see it. There wasn't one thing in particular that I was very anxious to see. I just wanted to see the overall country.
Christopher Ward: Well, you're not far from Niagara Falls, so that'll fit in, I think, with the concept. [chuckles] We have the brand-new video for Evening Falls. Now, we haven't seen that at all. Can you tell us a bit about that one?
Enya: Evening Falls is, believe it or not, a ghost story, and it's about this lady who had kept dreaming about a particular house, and she was in America, and years later she and her husband were retiring in England, and she comes across the house that she's been dreaming about, and when she goes up to have a look, the maid and the butler are very cold towards her, and very frightened of her, and she asks why, and they say that she has been walking around this house every night as she was dreaming about it. And it was Roma, on hearing the melody I had written, said this was perfect for the song Evening Falls...
Christopher Ward: [Pauses and nods in that interviewer way of saying, "That was a very nice story and I think perhaps a perfect place to bring this to a close."] Thank you very much...
Enya: Thank you.
Christopher Ward: ...it was nice having you today.
Enya: It was nice being here.
Christopher Ward: [Turns to camera] This is Enya, and Evening Falls..., from the album Watermark, on CityLimits. [
Evening Falls..., also a very beautiful and gracefully executed video, though simpler and much more subdued, is played, and the program ends.]
Note: Originally transcribed by Brian Fehdrau. His editorial comments are sprinkled throughout the transcription. His notes:
I apologize for the middling quality of this transcription. I've written everything down essentially verbatim, so there may be some confusion in places where the speaker changes their mind in the middle of a sentence. Also, some of the sentences appear to be run-on sentences, but that is just a result of my being an amateur at this. I don't know a good, grammatically correct way to work around human beings' tendency to start sentences with "and". It should not be taken as an indication of long- windedness on the speaker's part.
Please note that the attempt to show, in text, Enya's pronunciation of her full name, was done with the Arpabet, which is a phonetic alphabet. A more English approximation, as pronounced by your humble editor with his North American accent, would be "en-ya nee vree-nine" (yes, she was definitely saying "v", which I understand is indeed how "bh" is meant to be pronounced). You'll have to rely on your imagination to turn that into a spelling appropriate to your own accent if it differs from mine.