Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin (anglicised as Enya Patricia Brennan; born 17 May 1961), known professionally as Enya, is an Irish singer-songwriter, musician, and producer. Born and raised in County Donegal, Ireland, Enya began her music career when she joined her family's Celtic band Clannad, in 1980. She left the group in 1982 to pursue a solo career with producer and arranger Nicky Ryan and his wife, poet and lyricist Roma Ryan, developing her distinct sound of multi-tracked vocals, keyboards, and elements of folk, classical, church, and Celtic music.
As a solo artist, Enya composed the soundtrack to The Frog Prince (1985) and the 1987 BBC documentary series The Celts which was released as her first album, Enya (1987). She then received worldwide success with Watermark (1988) and its lead single "Orinoco Flow", which reached the top 10 in ten countries. Her follow-up albums Shepherd Moons (1991), The Memory of Trees (1995) and A Day Without Rain (2000) continued Enya's commercial success through the 1990s and 2000s, with each one selling millions worldwide. A Day Without Rain includes the single "Only Time" which reached No. 10 in the US and remains the biggest selling New age album with 16 million copies sold. Following the release of Amarantine (2005) and And Winter Came... (2008), Enya took an extended break from writing and recording music. She returned in 2012 and released Dark Sky Island (2015).
Enya is known for her private lifestyle and has yet to undergo a concert tour. Her discography includes eight studio albums that have sold 26.5 million RIAA-certified albums in the US and an estimated 75 million worldwide, making her one of the world's best-selling artists. She is Ireland's best-selling solo artist, and has sung in ten languages. Enya has won several awards, including six World Music Awards, four Grammy Awards, and a nomination for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for "May It Be", a song she recorded for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2002).
Enya was born in Dore, an area of Gweedore, County Donegal in the north west corner of the Republic of Ireland. The name "Enya" is a phonetic spelling of how her birth name, Eithne, is pronounced in Irish Gaelic, her native tongue. "Ní Bhraonáin" is Gaelic for "only daughter of Brennan". The sixth of nine children, she was born into a Roman Catholic family of musicians. Her father Leo Brennan ran Leo's Tavern in Meenaleck and was the leader of the Slieve Foy Band, an Irish showband, and her mother Máire Brennan (née Duggan) was an amateur musician who played in Leo's band and taught music at Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair, the community school in Gweedore.
Enya described her upbringing as "very quiet and happy." From a young age, she took part in pantomimes at Amharclann Ghaoth Dobhair, the town's local theatre, and sang with her siblings in her mother's choir at St Mary's Catholic Church in Derrybeg. She learned English at primary school, and attended Loreto College in Milford, a strict boarding school run by nuns where she developed a taste for classical music, art, and Latin. She recalled her schedule, "I had to do school work and then travel to a neighbouring town for piano lessons, and then more school work. I ... remember my brothers and sisters playing outside ... and I would be inside playing the piano. This one big book of scales, practicing them over and over." During her studies, she aimed at being "a piano teacher sort of person. I never thought of myself composing or being on stage." She left school at seventeen to study music in college.
1980-1985: Clannad and early solo projects
In 1970, several of Enya's family members formed a Celtic band, An Clann As Dobhar; they renamed themselves Clannad, Gaelic for "family", in 1973. Enya joined the group in 1980, playing keyboards and singing backing vocals on their sixth album, Crann Úll (1980), featuring a line-up of siblings Máire, Pól, and Ciarán Brennan, and twin uncles Noel and Pádraig Duggan. She was not an official member until its successor, Fuaim (1981), where she appears on the album's front cover. Her time in the band developed a taste for "travelling and live stage work". During this time, Enya also performed the synthesiser Ceol Aduaidh (1983) by Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy, and played with the duo and Mhaonaigh's brother Gearóid in their short-lived group, Ragairne.
In 1982, Enya left Clannad with their producer and manager Nicky Ryan who encouraged her to pursue a solo career, despite objections from her family. Enya explained, "There was a bit of an age gap ... We had great likes and dislikes, and there was a big clash. I liked being more independent and found I was somebody in the background with them." Ryan suggested to Enya that either she return to Gweedore "with no particular definite future" or live with him and his poet wife Roma in Dublin "and see what happens, musically. All we had was a piano and Enya got down to it ... as time went by, the music started to come out." Enya began the process by reciting and recording pieces of classical music and listening to them, before she started to improvise and develop her own. The three established a business and musical partnership, with Nicky as Enya's producer and arranger and Roma her lyricist.
Among Enya's first compositions as a solo artist were two instrumentals, "An Ghaoth Ón Ghrian" (Gaelic for "The Solar Wind") and "Miss Clare Remembers", recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in 1983 and released on Touch Travel (1984), an audio cassette featuring music from various artists. After living with the Ryans for two years, Roma encouraged Enya to produce a tape of her piano instrumentals that she composed during this time and send them to film producer David Puttnam as she believed the music best suited with visual images. Puttnam took a liking to the tape, and selected Enya to compose the soundtrack of the 1985 romantic comedy film The Frog Prince, of which he served as executive producer. Enya recorded nine tracks for the film at Aigle Studios, a studio installed at the Ryan's home, that were then orchestrated, against her wishes, from the melodies that she had written, something which she later said "was really nice but we weren't part of it at the end". Enya also sang on three track on Ordinary Man (1985) by Christy Moore.
1986-1989: The Celts and Watermark
Enya's first major solo project came about in 1986 when producer Tony McAuley approached her to compose a track to the BBC television documentary series The Celts. She recorded "The March of the Celts" and submitted it to the project. Each episode of the series was to feature a different composer at first, but McAuley liked Enya's track so much, he commissioned her to compose the entire soundtrack at Aigle and BBC Woodlands Studios. Unlike The Frog Prince, Enya worked with little outside interference and "felt a complete freedom to create my sound". Music recorded for the series established her distinctive sound that she adopted throughout her career with the use of melody, keyboards and synthesisers, elements of classical and Celtic music, and layered vocals of her voice that Nicky layers to form as "a choir of one". The soundtrack was released months before the series aired in May 1987 as Enya through BBC Records in the UK and Atlantic Records in the US. It reached a peak of No. 69 in the UK and received little public attention at the time. "I Want Tomorrow" was released as a single. "Boadicea" was later sampled by The Fugees on their track "Ready or Not"; initially, the group neither sought permission from Enya nor gave her credit. In 1987, Enya spoke Gaelic on "Never Get Old" on The Lion and the Cobra by Sinéad O'Connor.
"Na Laetha Geal M'Óige" (1988)
You can download the clip or download a player to play the clip in your browser. A sample of "Na Laetha Geal M'Óige", a song sung in Irish from Enya's breakthrough album, Watermark (1988).
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Following the release of her first album, Enya secured a recording contract with Warner/WEA Records in 1987 after Rob Dickens, then chairman of Warner Music UK and a fan of Clannad, became a big fan of Enya, playing it "every night before I went to bed". Following a chance meeting in at the year's Irish Recorded Music Association Awards in Dublin, Dickens spoke to Enya and the Ryans about his interest in signing Enya to his label. An agreement was made, giving Enya the green-light to produce a new studio album with complete artistic freedom and minimal interference from the label's management. Dickins recalled signing Enya: "Sometimes you sign an act to make money, and sometimes you sign an act to make music. This was clearly the latter ... I just wanted to be involved with this music."
Watermark was recorded at Aigle and Orinoco Studios, London from June 1987 to April 1988. Enya described the album as "searching, longing, of reaching out for an answer. The ocean is a central image. It is the symbolism of a great journey." The album was released in the UK in September 1988 where it went to No. 5 on the chart; it reached No. 25 in the US following its release there on the WEA/Warner-led Geffen Records in January 1989. Its lead single, "Orinoco Flow", was the last song written for the album. It was not intended to be released as a single at first, but Enya and the Ryans selected it after Dickens requested for a single from the album as a joke, knowing Enya's music was not produced to make hit singles. Dickens was then referenced in the songs' lyric: "We can steer, we can near with Rob Dickins at the wheel". "Orinoco Flow" charted in countries worldwide, and was No. 1 in the UK for three weeks. Watermark went on to sell in excess of 1.2 million copies in the UK and 4 million in the US. Its commercial success led to Enya's music being used in several television adverts and several music endorsement offers. Enya spent the remainder of 1988 and the first half of 1989 travelling worldwide to promote the album; appearances on Top of the Pops and The Late Late Show increased her national exposure.
1989-1997: Shepherd Moons and The Memory of Trees
In 1989, Enya returned to the studio start work on Shepherd Moons with new equipment purchased from the profits of Watermark. She found the success of Watermark caused a considerable amount of pressure when it came to writing new songs, adding: "I kept thinking 'Would this have gone on Watermark? Is it as good?' Eventually I had to forget about this and start on a blank canvas and just really go with what felt right." Without a change in musical direction, Enya wrote songs based on several ideas, including her personal diaries, The Blitz in London, and her grandparents. Released in November 1991 through WEA/Warner and Reprise Records, Shepherd Moons was a greater success than Watermark, reaching No. 1 in the UK and No. 17 in the US during a 238-week run on the Billboard 200 chart, where it went on to sell in excess of 5 million copies. The lead single, "Caribbean Blue", peaked at No. 13 in the UK. To coincide its release, Warner released a VHS collection of five music videos named Moonshadows. In 1993, Shepherd Moonds earned Enya her first Grammy Award for Best New Age Album. Soon after the release of Shepherd Moons, Industrial Light & Magic, founded by George Lucas, pitched ideas with Nicky Ryan over the development of a lighting system for a proposed Enya concert tour, but neither plan took place. In November 1992, Enya's first studio album was reissued as The Celts.
After the promotional tour for Shepherd Moons, Egan returned to the studio to develop new material for her next album, The Memory of Trees. Upon its release in December 1995, it reached No. 5 in the UK and No. 9 in the US, where it sold over 3 million copies. The album spawned two singles; "Anywhere Is" and "On My Way Home" reached No. 7 and No. 26 in the UK, respectively. In 1994, Enya released The Christmas EP, a collection of Christmas songs. Enya was offered to compose the score for Titanic, but declined. A recording of her singing "Oíche Chiúin", an Irish language version of "Silent Night", appeared on the 1997 charity album, A Very Special Christmas 3.
In February 1997, Enya began selecting tracks for her first compilation album, "trying to select the obvious ones, the hits, and others." She chose to work on the collection following the promotional tour for The Memory of Trees as she felt it was the right time in her career, and that her contract with WEA required her to release a "best of" album. The set, named Paint the Sky with Stars: The Best of Enya, features two new tracks, "Paint the Sky with Stars" and "Only If...". Released in November 1997, the album was a worldwide commercial success, reaching No. 4 in the UK and No. 30 in the US, where it went on to sell over 4 million copies. "Only If..." was released as a single in 1997. Enya described the album as "like a musical diary ... each melody has a little story and I live through that whole story from the beginning ... your mind goes back to that day and what you were thinking."
1998-2008: A Day Without Rain, Amarantine, and And Winter Came...
In the summer of 1998, Enya started work on her fifth studio album, A Day Without Rain. Released in November 2000, the album went to No. 6 in the UK and reached an initial peak at No. 17 in the US. The album's first single, "Only Time", was also released in November 2000. The album remained on the Billboard 200 in the 20s and 30s until "Only Time" gained popularity in 2001 after its widespread use on US radio and television across following the 11 September 2001 attacks. The response caused A Day Without Rain to climb the US chart to a new peak of No. 2, where it became her biggest selling album there with over 7 million copies sold. Its success prompted Enya to release a maxi single of "Only Time" in November 2001 with a pop remix of the song, from which its proceeds were donated to the International Association of Firefighters. The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart and No. 10 on its Hot 100 singles, Enya's highest charting US single to date. The magazine described the track as "a post-September 11 anthem". Enya won an ECHO Award in 2001 for the Best-Selling International Single and a nomination for Best-Selling Album. The second single from A Day Without Rain, "Wild Child", was released in December 2001.
In 2001, following a worldwide promotional tour for A Day Without Rain, Enya accepted an offer from director Peter Jackson to compose and sing on two tracks for the soundtrack to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2002) after composer Howard Shore "imagined her voice" as he saw the film and made an exception to include another artist to record for one of his scores. After flying to New Zealand to observe the filming, Enya returned to Ireland to write and sing on "Aníron (Theme for Aragon and Arwen)" with lyrics by Roma Ryan in author J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional Elvish language, Sindarin, and "May It Be", sung in English with a chorus in Tolkien's other language, Quenya. Shore then based his orchestrations around her vocals to create "a seamless sound". "May It Be" was released as a single in 2002; it earned Enya a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Enya performed the song live at the 74th Academy Awards in March 2002.
In November 2005 Enya released her sixth album, Amarantine. It reached No. 6 in the US and No. 8 in the UK. The album features singing in Loxian, a fictional language written by Roma Ryan. Following Enya's attempts to sing "Water Shows the Hidden Heart" in English, Gaelic and Latin, Ryan suggested she try in Loxian. "Sumiregusa (Wild Violet)" is sung in Japanese. In 2007, Amarantine won Enya's fourth Grammy Award for Best New Age Album. It has sold over 1 million copies in the US, Enya's lowest selling album there since Watermark. A two-disc Christmas Special Edition was released in 2006, followed by a Deluxe Edition. Enya dedicated the album to BBC producer Tony McAuley who commissioned Enya to write the soundtrack to The Celts, following his death in 2003. The lead single, "Amarantine", was released in December 2005.
In 2006 Enya released Sounds of the Season: The Enya Holiday Collection, a Christmas-themed album in the US following an exclusive partnership with the NBC network and the Target department store chain that included two new songs, "Christmas Secrets" and "The Magic of the Night". In November 2006, Enya won the World's Best-Selling Irish Act Award at the World Music Awards. In June 2007, Enya received an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland, Galway. A month later, she received her second from the University of Ulster.
In 2006, Enya continued to write music with a winter and Christmas theme for her seventh studio album And Winter Came.... Initially she intended to make an album of seasonal songs and hymns set for a release in late 2007, but decided to produce a winter-themed album instead. The track "My! My! Time Flies!", a tribute to the late Irish guitarist Jimmy Faulkner, incorporates a guitar solo performed by Pat Farrell, the first use of a guitar on an Enya album since "I Want Tomorrow" from Enya. Upon its release in November 2008, And Winter Came... reached No. 6 in the UK and No. 8 in the US and sold almost 3.5 million copies worldwide by 2011.
2009-present: Break from music, return, and Dark Sky Island
After her promotional tour for And Winter Came..., Enya took an extended break from writing and recording music. She spent her time resting, visiting family in Australia, and renovating her new home in the south of France. In March 2009, her first four studio albums were reissued in Japan in the Super High Material CD format with bonus tracks. Her second compilation album and DVD, The Very Best of Enya, was released in November 2009 and features songs from 1987 to 2008, including a previously unreleased version of "Aníron". In 2013, "Only Time" was used in an advertisement by Volvo Trucks starring Jean-Claude Van Damme who does the splits while suspended between two lorries. The video went viral, leading to numerous parodies of the commercial uploaded to YouTube also using "Only Time". The attention resulted in the song peaking at No. 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
In 2012, Enya returned to the studio to record her eighth album, Dark Sky Island, for Warner Bros. Records. Its name references the island of Sark, where it became the first island to be designated a dark-sky preserve, and a series of poems on islands by Roma Ryan. The new album was promoted with the premiere in October 2015 of its lead single, "Echoes in Rain", on Ken Bruce's radio show and with the release in the same month of the single as a digital download. Upon its release on 20 November 2015, Dark Sky Island went to No. 4 in the UK, Enya's highest charting album there since Shepherd Moons, and to No. 8 in the US. A Deluxe Edition features three additional songs. Enya completed a promotional tour of the UK and Europe, the US and Japan. During her visit to Japan, Enya performed "Orinoco Flow" and "Echoes in Rain" at the Universal Studios Japan Christmas show in Osaka.
Musical style and performances
Enya's vocal range is mezzo-soprano. She once cited her musical foundations as "the classics", church music, and "Irish reels and jigs". Since 1982, she has recorded her music with Nicky Ryan as producer and arrange and his wife Roma Ryan as lyricist. While in Clannad, Enya chose to work with Nicky as the two shared an interest in vocal harmonies, and Ryan, influenced by The Beach Boys and the "Wall of Sound" technique that Phil Spector pioneered, wanted to explore the idea of "the multivocals" that her music became known for. According to Enya, "Angeles" on Shepherd Moons has roughly 500 vocals recorded individually. Enya performs all vocals and the majority of instruments in her songs apart from several outside musicians to perform percussion, uilleann pipes, clarinet, cornet, and double bass. Her early works including Watermark feature numerous keyboards, including the Yamaha KX88 Master, Yamaha DX7, Oberheim Matrix, Akai S900, Roland D-50, and Roland Juno-60.
Numerous critics and reviewers classify Enya's albums as new age music and has won four Grammy Awards in the category. However, Enya does not classify her music as part of the genre. In one interview, she was asked what genre she would classify her music as belonging to. Her reply was "Enya". The music video to "Caribbean Blue" and the art work to The Memory of Trees feature adapted works from artist Maxfield Parrish.
Enya has sung in ten languages in her career, including English, Irish, Latin, Welsh, Spanish, French and Japanese. She has recorded music influenced by works from fantasy author J. R. R. Tolkien, including "Lothlórien", an instrumental from Shepherd Moons. In 2001, she recorded "May It Be" (sung in English and Tolkien's language Quenya) and "Aníron" (sung in Sindarin, also by Tolkien) for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2002). Amarantine and Dark Sky Island include songs sung in Loxian, a fictional language created by Roma Ryan of which there is no official syntax. Its vocabulary is formed by Enya singing the notes to which Roma provides its phonetic spelling afterwards.
Despite numerous requests from around the world, Enya has yet to undergo a concert tour. She explained that producing her studio albums cause her to "run overtime", causing her time for other projects to run out. Since 1988, she has sung live and lip-synced on various talk and music shows, events, and ceremonies throughout her career. In December 1995, Enya performed "Anywhere Is" at a Christmas concert at the Vatican City with Pope John Paul II in attendance, who met and thanked her for performing. This was followed by a surprise appearance at the 50th birthday celebration of Carl XVI Gustaf, the King of Sweden, in April 1996. In 1997, Enya participated in a live Christmas Eve broadcast in before flying home to County Donegal to join her family for their annual midnight Mass choral performance, which she partakes in each year.
In 1997, Enya bought Manderley Castle, a Victorian Grade A listed castle home in Killiney, County Dublin built in 1840, for £2.5 million at auction. Formerly known as Victoria and Ayesha, she renamed the castle after the house from the book Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Since the late 1980s, Enya has attracted the attention of several stalkers. In 1996, an Italian man who was seen in Dublin wearing a photograph of Enya around his neck, stabbed himself outside her parents' pub after being ejected from the premises. In 2005, two people broke into her home; the latter attacked one of her maids and left with several of Enya's items. Enya raised the alarm in her installed panic room. The incident made Enya spend roughly £250,000 on improving security, including the covering of gaps in the castle's outer wall and the installation of bollards and iron railings. In 2009, during her three-year break from music, Enya purchased a "home away from home" in the south of France.
Enya is known for keeping a low profile and very private lifestyle, saying: "The music is what sells. Not me, or what I stand for ... that's the way I've always wanted it". She has no children and has never married. In a 1991 interview, at age 30, she said: "I'm afraid of marriage because I'm afraid someone might want me because of who I am instead of because they loved me ... I wouldn't go rushing into anything unexpected, but I do think a great deal about this". Her relationship with a Spanish male ended in 1997.
In 2006, Enya ranked third in a list of the wealthiest Irish entertainers with an estimated fortune of £75 million, and No. 95 in the Sunday Times Rich List of the richest 250 Irish people.
Awards and nominations
|1989||Enya||IRMA Award for Best Female Irish Artist||Won|
|1993||Enya||IRMA Award for Best Female Irish Artist||Won|
|1993||Shepherd Moons||Grammy Award for Best New Age Album||Won|
|1997||The Memory of Trees||Grammy Award for Best New Age Album||Won|
|2001||Enya||World Music Award for Best Selling Irish Artist||Won|
|2001||Enya||World Music Award for Best Selling New Age Artist||Won|
|2001||"May It Be"||Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Song||Won|
|2002||"May It Be"||Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song||Nominated|
|2002||"May It Be"||Academy Award for Best Original Song||Nominated|
|2002||A Day Without Rain||Grammy Award for Best New Age Album||Won|
|2002||Enya||World Music Award for Best Selling Irish Artist||Won|
|2001||Enya||World Music Award for Best Selling New Age Artist||Won|
|2002||Enya||World Music Award for Best Female Artist||Won|
|2002||"Only Time"||ECHO Award for Best Single of the Year (International)||Won|
|2003||Enya||World Music Award for Best Irish Female Artist||Won|
|2006||Enya||World Music Award for Best Selling Irish Artist||Won|
|2007||Amarantine||Grammy Award for Best New Age Album||Won|
|2016||Dark Sky Island||ECHO Award for Best Female of the Year (International)||Nominated|
DiscographyMain article: Enya discography
- Studio albums
- Enya (1987) (reissued 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)
- Dark Sky Island (2015)