Enya Stops to Smell the Roses
USA Today (USA) 22 December 2000
NEW YORK — For more than a decade, a certain Irish musician has been one of our most scrupulously private popular artists. But after selling 44 million albums worldwide, she finally is ready to make a personal revelation.
Enya is a recovering workaholic.
The 39-year-old singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist, who was born Eithne Ni Bhraonain, began realizing her problem while working on her last studio album, 1995's The Memory of Trees. Like its predecessors, 1988's Watermark and 1991's Shepherd Moons, Trees was a collection of densely layered tracks that Enya toiled on for years, devoting long hours and intense concentration to crafting her lush, ethereal sound.
"It takes me time to write a melody, to work on an arrangement," says Enya, who sits perched on a sofa in her Manhattan hotel suite. "But as you get older, you kind of mellow out. I started asking myself if I was happy with the way I had been working. I thought, 'Yes, I love the work.'
"But I also realized that I had dedicated a lot of time solely to the music — with major sacrifices regarding how much time I took out for myself. And I thought, 'I don't need to spend seven days a week in the studio'."
Indeed, when she began work on her new CD, A Day Without Rain, Enya resolved to take breaks on weekends and even indulge in a few vacations. The result, she believes, is an album with "a very content, positive feel — and that's reflective of where I am right now."
Enya's more relaxed approach to recording also produced a fringe benefit: For the first time, she is considering embarking on a concert tour. While she notes that it would be impossible to re-create the sound she achieves in the studio — where she plays all the instrumental parts and records all vocal harmonies — she envisions a stage production that would include an orchestra and choir.
"It's just a matter of sitting down and scoring the various parts," she says. "It's quite an exciting idea. We've been talking about at least trying to do a TV special by next year and take it from there."
Certainly, the audience for such an event exists.
Though Enya's soothing, contemplative oeuvre is hardly the kind of fare that attracts Top 40 radio programmers, she has maintained a devout following here and abroad. Some fans have attributed healing powers to her music, relaying stories of how her songs have helped ease physical and emotional duress.
While Enya is hugely flattered by such feedback, she insists that "I never bring thoughts about the success or the listeners into the studio with me."
For her, writing and recording is a fairly solitary process, in which her only companionship is provided by longtime colleagues Nicky and Roma Ryan.
Nicky managed Clannad, the family group that Enya performed with in the late '70s and early '80s, and has produced all her solo efforts; Roma, his wife, writes lyrics to accompany Enya's melodies.
"It's a very conscious decision to have only Nicky, Roma and myself in the studio," Enya says.
"No one else can hear the music until it's completely finished. The record company knows that they can't be phoning me up all the time, asking, 'When will it be ready?' They have understood that from the beginning, which is great."
Enya's professional associates and her fans are equally respectful of her enduring desire for a private life. Whether traveling the globe to promote a project or unwinding at her home in a suburb of Dublin, she is approached by admirers, but they are generally polite to a fault.
"They'll quietly ask me for an autograph," she muses, lowering her voice to a whisper in an affectionate simulation of this technique. "They'll say, 'I know you don't like to be bothered.' But I don't mind being recognized."
Nor does Enya mind discussing her current contentment — to a point. Asked if there is a specific reason for her new and improved outlook on art and life, she mentions no boyfriend, puppy or Eastern philosophy. She simply advises the curious to listen and learn.
"My music was out there selling itself before anyone knew who I was," she notes. "That's how I've expressed myself and shared my personal moments. My choice has been to stand back and let the music speak for itself."