All Things Considered

Interviewer: Noah Adams

National Public Radio (USA) 15 January 1996

An extract from 'Watermark' is played.

Noah Adams: A piano would be the simplest thing that Enya does, and the rest comes later. There's a lot to an Enya track: Enya singing harmonies with herself, overdubbed more than one hundred times, becoming a choir. She plays all the instruments, and they become an orchestra. She's solely a studio musician - her work is far too complex to perform on stage - but nonetheless her music has become an industry. Two previous albums sold a total of nine million copies. Her new CD has sold three million since December. She is Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, from a musical family in Ireland. Her father had a dance band there, she grew up speaking Gaelic, and she records now in Gaelic, English, Latin, and Spanish.

When it is time for a melody to come into your head, is that likely to happen, as I imagine when I listen to your music, is that likely to happen when you're outside, in County Donegal walking along the coast, on a pretty day or a stormy day? Is that where the music happens for you, or does it happen at an office, in the studio, in a much more mundane way?

Enya: Well I think that it's a combination, because I do get a lot on inspiration from being in Donegal, walking on the mountainside, walking on the Atlantic coast, but I don't work anywhere other than in the studio. But the studio, it's a new studio, and it's designed for me to work there, and it's very peaceful, and upstairs there's this beautiful room where the piano is, and it overlooks the Wicklow Mountains. So it's not very mundane where I work, but I actually have to sit at a piano, and sometimes I will sing the melody or I'll play the melody, and I'm not really aware of what the main inspirations are, for this particular piece. ('Once You Had Gold' plays in the background) Usually what happens is the first note, the second note, and it takes me on a journey and I just go along with it.

Noah Adams: How involved can you get in the studio, in the meaning of the music for you if there's not anybody, if there's not an audience, to be performing it for - to be sharing, anyway?

Enya: I think that I can get quite involved. Even though there's not an audience in front of you, you're aware that you're recording it, and hopefully somebody will listen to it, and you will have an audience. So you're kind of aware of that. So, for me, I always feel like I'm performing. You're not really aware of how the listeners are going to react. Because something I do very consciously is, once I go into the studio, I forget about the success, and I forget about the listeners, and the audience. I just concentrate on music, and so therefore each time I leave the studio, I'm quite anxious about the album, it feels like it's the first time again,. Is there anybody going to listen to it? Because, all I have to do is switch on the radio, and it's still very different, you know, to what's happening musically today.

Noah Adams: Different from what you can hear on the radio?

Enya: Yeah, very different.

Noah Adams: When you hear something after working on it for two years, can you say to yourself: that's exactly what I want?

Enya: Well, that's why I take two years. Because, for example, say working on 'Pax Deorum' 'Pax Deorum' plays in the background, just before Christmas of last year, we felt we had to try. What we do in the studio is, we try everything, every idea. So there is a stage where you just cannot tell if you're happy with the track or not. And what we do what we do is we leave it for as long as we can, maybe one, two, three months. So therefore when you go back, you can judge much, much better. And, for example, for that piece in particular, we were very happy laughs so we ended up bringing it right back to the melody again. Because, again, what I love to do, is enhance the melody, that first emotion, that we loved, and if that gets lost, then you've lost, you know, the feel for that particular track. So therefore that's why we need time, so when we finish, we're pretty much very happy with, with the song or the melody.

Noah Adams: This is the song in Latin.

Enya: Yeah.

Noah Adams: So had you, sort of, over-produced it, and gotten it a bit too fancy, and had to bring it back?

Enya: Yeah. It actually went into a direction we weren't too happy with. But we knew - and also with the work we had done - we could also tell what we wanted to achieve with it as well. So it was a matter of going back to sort of the basic melody, and spending another sort of two, three months, on it. But then when we went to listen back to it, we were then happy.

Noah Adams: Tell me, please. about the Spanish song that you have...

Enya: 'La Soñadora'.

Noah Adams: ...and how it relates to your mother. Is it your mother's heritage?

Enya: Well, there's a link between Ireland and Spain history-wise, and also in mythology, and not a lot of people know about the mythology side. So the lyrics are actually based on that, and to get back to sort of the Spanish, they have actually traced back in my family tree, and there is some Spanish connection, in the family tree. So I thought it was nice to use the Spanish in this way. The first Druid came from Spain - his name was Amergin - and at the time in Ireland, we had the gods, and Amergin came to Ireland. And, on landing on the shores of Ireland, he recited a poem, and the lyrics are based on that actual poem.

'La Soñadora' plays in the background

Noah Adams: Do you have any real connection sometimes, do you feel any real connection with the Druids, with people who perhaps made music a couple or three centuries ago?

Noah Adams: Well, I think in Ireland, in general, people are very passionate about music and literature and art, and it seems to come through in Irish people. And also there's this sense of melancholy that's inherent, I think, in Irish people, again in their writing and performance. And this is very much said about my music, and it doesn't reflect on myself at all. It just... I think... it's just from being Irish.

Noah Adams: You mean you're pretty happy.

Enya: Well, I'm certainly not going around being melancholy every day. (laughs)

Extract from 'Anywhere Is' played

Noah Adams: Enya's new recording is titled The Memory Of Trees.

Note: Transcribed by Patrick Haslam.