Enya (born Eithne Ní Bhraonáin; Irish pronunciation: [ˈɛnʲə nʲiː ˈvˠɾˠiːn̪ˠaːnʲ], anglicised as Enya Brennan; 17 May 1961) is an Irish singer, instrumentalist, and songwriter who is one of Moya Brennan's younger sisters.
Enya began her musical career in 1980, when she briefly joined her family band Clannad before leaving to perform solo. She gained wider recognition for her music in the 1987 BBC series The Celts. Shortly afterwards, her 1988 album Watermark propelled her to further international fame and she became known for her distinctive sound, characterised by voice-layering, folk melodies, synthesised backdrops and ethereal reverberations. She has performed in 10 languages.
Enya continued to enjoy steady success during the 1990s and 2000s; her 2000 album A Day Without Rain sold 15 million copies, and became the top selling new age album of the 2000s in the US, according to Nielsen SoundScan. She received the world's best-selling female award at the World Music Awards in 2001. She is Ireland's best-selling solo musician. Her record sales stand at more than 75 million worldwide, including over 26.5 million in album sales in the US, making her one of the world's best-selling artists of all time. Her work has earned her four Grammy Awards and an Academy Award nomination.
Life and career
1961–83: Musical upbringing and Clannad
Enya was born and raised in Gweedore, County Donegal, in the northwest corner of Ireland. She is part of an Irish-speaking, Catholic musical family, the sixth of nine children.Enya is an approximate transliteration of how Eithne is pronounced in the Donegal dialect of the Irish language, her native tongue. Her grandparents were in a band that played throughout Ireland, her father was the leader of the Slieve Foy Band before opening Leo's Tavern, and her mother played in a dance band and later taught music at Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair. From a young age, Enya appeared in many pantomimes onstage at Gweedore's local theatre and sang with her siblings in her mother's choir at St Mary's Catholic Church, Derrybeg. She attended Loreto Community School in Milford, County Donegal and then moved away to attend college wanting to become a classical pianist, continuing her studies in music and also studying watercolour painting.
Enya has four brothers and four sisters, several of whom formed the band An Clann As Dobhar in 1968. They renamed the band Clannad in the 1970s. In 1980, Enya worked with Clannad, the band composed of her siblings Máire (Moya), Pól, and Ciarán and twin uncles Noel and Pádraig Duggan. Enya played the keyboard and provided backing vocals on their album Crann Úll (1980), although she was not officially a member of the group until the 1981 release Fuaim, when she appeared on the cover. During that same year, Enya was also a member of Ragairne, the band of Altan front-woman Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh. In 1982, shortly before Clannad became internationally renowned for "Theme From Harry's Game", producer and manager Nicky Ryan left the group and Enya joined him to start her own solo career. Enya then formed her own recording studio, named "Aigle", which is French for "eagle".
1984–87: Career beginnings
Enya recorded two solo instrumental pieces called "An Ghaoth Ón Ghrian" (Irish for "The Solar Wind") and "Miss Clare Remembers" that were released on the 1984 album Touch Travel. She was first credited as Enya (as opposed to Eithne) for writing some of the music for the 1984 movie The Frog Prince, which was released on a soundtrack album of the same title. Another early appearance on record followed in 1987, where Enya provided spoken (not sung) vocals in Irish on the song "Never Get Old" on Sinéad O'Connor's debut album, The Lion and the Cobra.
Enya was contracted to provide music for the soundtrack of the 1987 BBC television documentary, The Celts. The music she produced was featured on her first solo album, Enya (1987), but it attracted little attention at the time. The B-side single "Eclipse" is actually a reversed and modified version of Enya's song "Deireadh An Tuath" from this 1987 album. The song "Boadicea", also from this album, would be sampled and modified by The Fugees on their single "Ready or Not" (1996), causing a brief stir because the group neither sought permission from Enya nor gave her credit initially. Mario Winans' song "I Don't Wanna Know" (which featured a rap by P. Diddy) sampled the Fugees sample, and is officially credited to Winans, Diddy and Enya. The song became Enya's highest charting US single, peaking at No.2 on the Hot 100 in 2004.
1988–91: International breakthrough, Watermark and Shepherd Moons
"Na Laetha Geal M'Óige" (1988)
Irish language song from her album Watermark.
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Enya achieved a breakthrough in her career in 1988 with the album Watermark, which featured the hit song "Orinoco Flow" (sometimes incorrectly known as "Sail Away"). "Orinoco Flow", reported to be named after Orinoco Studios (now Miloco Studios), where it was conceived, topped the charts in the United Kingdom, peaked at number 2 in Germany and the Watermark album sold eleven million copies.
Enya was quoted as saying: "The success of Watermark surprised me. I never thought of music as something commercial; it was something very personal to me." Enya also said in an interview paraphrased, "Watermark has in its theme searching, longing, of reaching out for an answer. The ocean is a central image. It is the symbolism of a great journey, which is the way I would describe this album."
Three years later she followed with another hit album, Shepherd Moons, which sold twelve million copies and earned Enya her first Grammy Award. Shepherd Moons is also her longest charting album to date, spending 238 weeks on the Billboard 200. The songs "On Your Shore" and "Exile" (from Watermark) and "Epona" (from Enya) were featured in the 1991 film L.A. Story. "Ebudæ" is also featured on the soundtrack to the Robin Williams feature film Toys, while the 1990 feature film Green Card features "River", "Watermark", and "Storms in Africa". "Book of Days" was featured prominently in the movie Far and Away, with an English-lyric version created for the film then replacing the old Irish language version on all pressings of the Shepherd Moons album from 1993 onwards. In 1993, her recording of "Marble Halls" from Shepherd Moons was featured in the Martin Scorsese film, The Age of Innocence.
1992–99: The Celts, The Memory of Trees, and Paint the Sky with Stars
In 1992, a re-mastered version of the Enya album was released as The Celts including a longer, modified version of "Portrait", which was renamed "Portrait (Out of the Blue)".
Four years after Shepherd Moons she released The Memory of Trees (1995), another Top Five success in both the UK and Germany, as well as her first Top 10 album in the U.S. Singles released from the album were "Anywhere Is" and "On My Way Home".
"Only If..." (1997)
Hit song from her greatest hits compilation, Paint the Sky with Stars.
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In 1997, Enya released her greatest hits collection, Paint the Sky with Stars: The Best of Enya, again a top five smash in the UK and Germany, which featured two new songs: "Paint the Sky with Stars" and "Only If..."; "Only If..." later became a single. ("Only If You Want To", is an early version of "Only If...". It appears on a promotional Japanese CD called The Best of Enya, and does not include the French lyrics). She was offered the chance to compose the score for James Cameron's 1997 feature film Titanic, but she declined. A 1989 recording of Enya singing "Oíche Chiúin", an Irish language version of "Silent Night", has been reissued at least twice: on The Christmas EP (which otherwise contains several non-holiday related previously issued recordings by Enya) and the 1997 edition of the charity album A Very Special Christmas.
Ansett Australia extensively used "Storms in Africa" for promotional purposes when the airline re-branded itself in the 1990s. The 1992 film Sleepwalkers features "Boadicea" as the film's signature tune. "Boadicea" has also been sampled in the popular Fugees song "Ready or Not".
2000–04: A Day Without Rain
Following a five-year break Enya released the album A Day Without Rain in 2000, featuring 37 minutes of new material (34 minutes on the U.S. version). The album is Enya's most successful to date, peaking at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. The first single, "Only Time", was used in the film Sweet November and received U.S. radio airplay in late 2000. In May 2001, NBC began using "Only Time" to accompany commercials for their television series Friends, which helped the song top the Adult Contemporary and Adult Top 40 charts.
After the 11 September 2001 attacks "Only Time" was used as a soundtrack in many radio and television reports about the attacks. Enya released a special edition of the song, and a maxi single was issued on 20 November 2001 featuring a pop mix, with proceeds donated to the families of victims. "Only Time" peaked at number 10 on the U.S. Hot 100, number 12 on the Pop Chart and hit number one on the Adult Contemporary and Hot Adult Contemporary charts. In Germany, "Only Time" re-entered the German single charts at number 1 and the album A Day Without Rain reached number one some weeks later. Enya won an Echo Award for best selling international single in Germany of 2001, and received a nomination for best selling album.
In 2001, Enya recorded "May It Be", which was featured in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, earning her an Academy award nomination for Best Original Song. It was her second consecutive single to enter the German charts at number one. The video features scenes from the Peter Jackson film.
A new song called "Sumiregusa" ("Wild Violet") was based on a Japanese poem by Roma Ryan. In September 2004, the song was used in Japan as part of an advertising campaign for Panasonic. Warner Music Japan stated that Enya's next album was scheduled for release in Japan in mid-November. Enya issued a press release on her official Web site on 19 September stating that this was a mistake and no new album was immediately forthcoming.
2005–08: Amarantine and And Winter Came...
In November 2005, a new album, entitled Amarantine, was released. It reached the Top 10 in both the UK and the US, and peaked at number 3 in Germany. The album won the Grammy Award for Best New Age Album for 2007, Enya's fourth.
In 2006, Enya released several Christmas-themed CDs with newly recorded material. On 10 October 2006 Sounds of the Season: The Enya Holiday Collection was released containing six songs: the previously released "Oíche Chiúin" (a.k.a. "Silent Night") and "Amid the Falling Snow", new recordings of the standards "Adeste Fideles" (a.k.a. "Oh Come All Ye Faithful") and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" as well as two original songs, "Christmas Secrets" and "The Magic of the Night". This CD was released only in the United States in an exclusive partnership with the NBC television network and the Target department store chain. Enya was awarded the World's Best-Selling Irish Act award at the World Music Awards in London on 19 November 2006.
In late November two new editions of Amarantine were released. In the UK it was reissued as Christmas Edition: Amarantine with a second disc containing the four new Christmas songs previously issued on Sounds of the Season (the original album already had "Amid the Falling Snow" while "Oíche Chiúin" is a recording dating back to 1988, which had already been featured on numerous collections). The U.S. received a special version of this release (Amarantine – Deluxe Collector's Edition), which also included three postcards and a copy of Roma Ryan's book Water Shows the Hidden Heart, which is referenced on the original album. Canadian fans could choose from the Special Christmas Edition of Amarantine or an EP entitled Christmas Secrets, which contained only the four new songs.
By mid-2007, Enya claimed to have sold 80 million albums. An American businessperson has coined the phrase "enyanomics" to explain Enya's ability to sell millions of records without giving any live performances. It is defined as the inexplicable growth in sales of an artist in inverse relation to how much publicity they have.
On 29 June 2007, Enya received an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland, Galway. Shortly after, on 10 July 2007, Enya received a second honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster.
November 2008 saw the release of And Winter Came… with a new video for the song "Trains and Winter Rains". This album follows her passion for the Christmas period. It also features guitar on the track "My! My! Time Flies!" (an instrument rarely heard on an Enya recording since "I Want Tomorrow" from The Celts soundtrack) and a chorale version of the previously released "Oíche Chiúin". She promoted the album on morning news shows and performed some songs live.
2009–present: The Very Best of Enya and eighth studio album
In March 2009, Warner Music Japan released Enya's first 4 albums in a new format, called SHM-CD. On 23 November 2009 Enya released a new album called The Very Best of Enya. It includes most of her hits from 1987 to 2008 including a new version of "Aníron", a song created for "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring" in 2001. In 2010, singer Rihanna sampled "One By One" on the song "Fading" from her new album Loud.
In a May 2011 interview, Enya's manager said that she is working on a new album and will likely tour to support it, with part of the recording taking place in Abbey Road Studios in London. As of April 2014, neither a new studio album release nor a promotional tour has been announced.
Enya's single "Only Time" was used by Volvo Trucks for their commercial starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, released in November, 2013, in which the action film star executed a split while suspended between two trucks. Numerous parodies of the commercial appeared online in the weeks following, again using "Only Time".
Musical style and other projects
As a musical group Enya represents a partnership between three people: Enya herself, who composes and performs the music; Nicky Ryan, who produces the albums; and Roma Ryan, who writes the lyrics in various languages, except Irish, in which Enya will render the lyrics herself. Enya performs all percussion, instruments, and vocals in her pieces unless specified. Although there are certain pieces where acoustic instruments are featured, almost all sounds of her pieces are created by a synthesiser. Her trademark sound is achieved by layering her voice hundreds of times. According to Enya, Angeles, the fifth track on her album Shepherd Moons has about 500 layered vocal tracks.
Enya's vocal range is mezzo-soprano. Her signature sound uses simple arrangements with extensive multi-tracking vocals. The vocals are performed individually, and are then layered together to form a virtual choir, although all the voices are Enya herself. In "Cursum Perficio" of the album Watermark, Enya reaches a C an octave below middle C. Later in the piece, she sings a high A-flat above the treble clef.
On the album Amarantine Enya sings in Japanese and Loxian, a language invented by Roma Ryan. The vocabulary is formed by Enya singing the notes to which Roma provides the phonetic writing. There is no official syntax for Loxian. While most of her songs are sung in English, some of Enya's songs are sung entirely in Irish or Latin. Enya has also sung songs written entirely or partially in Welsh, Spanish, French, and even languages created by J. R. R. Tolkien. Enya has performed several songs relating to J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, including 1991's "Lothlórien" (instrumental), and 2001's "May It Be" (sung in English and Quenya), and "Aníron" (in Sindarin)—the latter two, which she composed, appearing in Peter Jackson's movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and its soundtrack album. "May It Be" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Enya's performances are "semi-live", using playback music and singing. She has given live performances on various television shows, events and ceremonies (her most recent appearance was in Gweedore in the summer of 2005, which coincided with a tribute event to the Brennan family that took place in Letterkenny), but she has yet to do a concert. She does not classify her music as belonging to the New Age genre. When asked what genre she would classify her music as belonging to, she would reply, "Enya".
In 1997, Enya bought a castle in Killiney, south of Dublin, for £2.5million, and named it Manderley after the house in her favourite book, Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. Beginning with Watermark, Enya began to attract the attention of stalkers, several of whom succeeded in breaking into her castle and attacking some of the staff. As a result, Enya spent an estimated £250,000 on security measures for her home. In 1996, a man who had been seen in Dublin wearing her photograph around his neck stabbed himself after being ejected from her parents' pub in County Donegal.
In 2006, Enya made it to the number three spot in the ranks of wealthy Irish entertainers with an estimated fortune of €109 million (i.e., £75 million or US$165 million), and number 95 in the Sunday Times Rich List 2006 of the 250 Wealthiest Irish People.
"My influences are with Irish music, church music and classical music," she said in a 1997 interview.
In addition to performing for the Pope, the singer participated in a live broadcast on British television for Christmas Eve in 1997, before she flew home to County Donegal to join her family at midnight Mass. She still sings in her mother's choir every Christmas at midnight Mass, at St. Mary's Church.
Notable awards and tributes
- Grammy Awards of 1993, Best New Age Album for Shepherd Moons
- Grammy Awards of 1997, Best New Age Album for The Memory of Trees
- Grammy Awards of 2002, Best New Age Album for A Day Without Rain
- Grammy Awards of 2007, Best New Age Album for Amarantine
- Academy Award nomination (2001) for Best Original Song for "May It Be".
- Golden Globe Award nomination (2001) for Best Original Song for "May It Be".
- The asteroid 6433 Enya, discovered on 18 November 1978 by Antonín Mrkos at Kleť Observatory, is named after her.
- Enya was the subject of the song "Pumping Iron for Enya" by Atom and His Package on their 1999 album Making Love.
- Enya (1987) (re-mastered in 1992 as The Celts)
- Watermark (1988)
- Shepherd Moons (1991)
- The Memory of Trees (1995)
- A Day Without Rain (2000)
- Amarantine (2005)
- And Winter Came... (2008)
The first official home video collection of music videos by Enya, Moonshadows, was issued on VHS and laserdisc by Warner Music in 1991, containing most of her music videos up until that point. This release occurred in both the UK and North America.
In 2000, Warner Music released Enya: The Video Collection on DVD in Europe, South Africa and Asia, collecting all her videos from "Orinoco Flow" up to and including "Wild Child", except for the video from "Book of Days", which was replaced by a live TV performance due to licensing complications relating to the video's use of footage from the film Far and Away. The DVD release also included interviews and features on the making of two videos.
A North American (Region 1) release of the Video Collection DVD was announced on several occasions during 2000–2001, but it did not occur; the reason for which has never been officially stated. At one point it was announced that the release had been delayed to allow the inclusion of the video for "May it Be", while the (now defunct) fan sites reported that a dispute over the sound quality of the release led to it being withdrawn.
Enya is featured in featurettes included with the 2003 BBC Video DVD release of The Celts, including performances of several songs videotaped in the late 1980s. This release was available in both the UK and North America.
In November 2009, the deluxe version of the compilation release The Very Best of Enya included a DVD bonus disc containing most (but not all) of the music videos from the 2001 release, documentaries from that release, and videos from Enya's post-2001 albums. This DVD (formatted as Region 0) was distributed in North America and remains available as of 2014.
The following is a list of music videos that Enya has released:
- "Aldebaran" (1987)
- "I Want Tomorrow" (1987)
- "Orinoco Flow" (1988)
- "Storms in Africa" (1989)
- "Evening Falls" (1989)
- "Exile" (1990)
- "How Can I Keep from Singing?" (1991)
- "Caribbean Blue" (1991)
- "The Celts" (1992)
- "Book of Days" (1992)
- "Anywhere Is" (1995)
- "On My Way Home" (1996)
- "Only If..." (1997)
- "Only Time" (2000)
- "Wild Child" (2001)
- "Only Time (Remix)" (2001)
- "May It Be" (2001)
- "Amarantine" (2005)
- "It's in the Rain" (2006)
- "Trains and Winter Rains" (2008)
- Mononymous persons
- List of best-selling music artists
- – Enya official website
- on IMDB
- at Allmusic
- at Billboard
- at DMOZ
- in libraries (WorldCat catalog)