Ethereal Girl

Evan Fanning

Hot Press Magazine, (Ireland) Nov. 5, 2008

She's the Irish music industry's very own JD Salinger, a higely private individual who has sold millions of records, rarely gives interviews - and has never performed live since her big breakthrough. In a rare meeting with select press, to makr the release of her new album And Winter Came, Enya talks about quietly becoming a phenomenon and expains why it may at last be time to head out on the road.

The smoking incense and bowls of floating 1 roses set between the microphones provide the first hint that this isn't going to be your usual rock star interview. No, today is going to be a much more Zen-like occasion. This is made perfectly clear when Enya glides into the room, accompanied by her long-standing producer Nicky Ryan and his wife, and Enya's lyricist, Roma Ryan.

We've been granted a rare audience with an artist who has sold over 70 million albums worldwide in the last 20 years, becoming one of Ireland's wealthiest women in the process. The first impression when the small and slight Enya starts to speak is that she's like the relative who, you always felt, had more in common with you than with your parents. Her soft northern lilt and calm exterior remain redolent of the effects of the clear Donegal air.

The occasion of her appearance is the release of her new album And Winter Came, her seventh studio outing since Roma famously posted a tape of her singing to the hugely successful British film producer David Puttnam, who subsequently asked her to record a song for his film The Frog Prince. The rest, as they say, is history, with Enya going on to become a mysterious semi-recluse with the ability to sell records in a manner that eludes the most shameless self-publicists.

And Winter Came was two years in the making and originally intended for release last Christmas. That was before the agenda shifted from producing an album of seasonal songs and hymns to making a winter-themed LP mainly made up of original recordings.

While the album holds true to the style that Enya almost alone defines, it does contain certain departures, including the track 'My, My Time Flies', a tribute to the late Irish guitarist Jimmy Faulkner.

"That song came about not because of Jimmy but because of a conversation we were having about Jimmy," Enya explains. "It was strange because we went from talking about The Beatles to Tchaikovsky and to Elvis. It's strange in a conversation how one thing can lead to so many unrelated themes, and Roma thought it would be nice to capture the conversation we had. So we decided to do the song and dedicate it to Jimmy."

Nicky - who knew Faulkner well and was key to bringing the track to fruition, complete with guitar solo courtesy of Pat Farrell (another first for Enya) - picks up the thread.

"I thought there should be some reference to the music he was into. There's a reference to Abbey Road. There's a reference to 'the King who's still in the news’ meaning Elvis, and 'the King who sings the blues' which is B.B. King."

The release of the album could also be the catalyst for Enya delivering her first ever concert performance. In the current musical climate it's astonishing that any artist can have sustained success without the benefit of gigging, but then Enya and her cohorts seem to take a certain pleasure in doing things her own way.

For one, she feels that in the 20 years since Watermark broke internationally, and turned her into a major world superstar, the timing has never been quite right for a series of live concerts.

"Nobody really expected the success that Watermark had. We had an agreement with the record company when we signed with them that we could take as long as we wanted recording each album. I think they got anxious because we were going to take a number of jjfiars in the studio, so the priority was to get to work as quickly as possible on the next album.

"But I love performing. When I was very young I performed on the stage, and I do enjoy it. But it has to be the right rnoment. I wouldn't want to impose it on the music if it wasn't the right moment."

The right moment may well be soon: plans are afoot for a number of one-off shows next year, possibly in Europe - though there is no certainty yet that they will happen.

“There are serious talks going on at the moment," Nicky reveals. “One of the problems is that the longer we leave it the more the expectation from the audience grows. People expect miracles and now we’re thinking of ways to perform those miracles."

The lack of live performances only adds to the mistique surrounding Enya. She's never married and no one has ever breached her inner circle and come back with tales to be pored over by the media and fans. She herself feels lucky that up until now she hasn't needed to trade her privacy for a life in music. "It evolves from the fact that the music is more successful than we'd anticipated it to be. It meant that the music was selling by itself before anyone knew who I was, and that is such a wonderful position to be in.

"It wasn't necessary to change who I was as a person, or to put on a different hat and be 'Enya' to sell the music," she proffers. "It's like fame and success are two different things. The music has been successful so I don't have to think about the fame aspect as being an important issue."

"A lot of people see it as hiding," Nicky interjects. "But it's not hiding. It's just a great way to be."

Enya admits she has no idea what she'll be doing next year, although Nicky has his heart set on some live shows. Their recording process is typically long and arduous as songs are recorded and re-visited, torn up and started over. Well, it's pleasing to know that the legendary Enya serenity is occasionally jettisoned and the exchanges can often become heated!

"We're only human," Nicky deadpans. "Well I am anyway. Enya came from Heaven!"

And Winter Came is released on Friday November 7

Note: Transcribed by Book of Days from a copy of Hot Press Magazine provided by Skyscape.