Enya, 26th May 2022
Enya, 26th May 2022
Background information
Birth nameEithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin
Also known as
  • Enya
  • Eithne Brennan
  • Enya Patricia Brennan
Born (1961-05-17) 17 May 1961 (age 62)
Dore, Gweedore, County Donegal, Ireland
  • composer
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
  • vocals
  • piano
  • keyboards/synthesisers
Years active1980–present

Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin (born 17 May 1961), known mononymously as Enya, is an Irish composer and singer-songwriter. The music of Enya is widely recognised for featuring multi-layers of her vocals, varied instrumentation, lengthened reverb, and subtle Celtic elements. Her career as a solo artist, now over four decades long, is notably an atypical path to success in the music industry. As the second-best-selling Irish music act overall, after rock band U2, Enya is the best-selling Irish solo artist; believed to have sold over 80 million albums worldwide.[1]

Enya was raised in the Irish-speaking region of Gweedore. In 1980, Enya (as Eithne Ní Bhraonáin) began her musical career playing alongside her family's Celtic folk band Clannad. She left Clannad in 1982 to pursue a solo career, working with the former Clannad manager and producer, Nicky Ryan, and his partner Roma, as their lyricist. Over the following four years, Enya developed her sound by combining multitracked vocals and keyboards with elements from a variety of musical genres such as Celtic, classical, church, jazz, ambient, world, pop, hip-hop[2] and Irish folk.

The earliest releases by Enya as a solo artist were two instrumentals for the Touch Travel T4 cassette compilation (1984) composed around 1982-83.[3] The majority of the soundtrack for The Frog Prince (1985) was composed by Enya, and she sang two songs with lyrics, however these were not heard in-film. Enya composed a body of work for the BBC documentary series named The Celts (1986). A selection of her pieces for The Celts were released as her debut album, Enya (1987). Former chairman of Warner Music, Rob Dickins found himself enjoying the music from The Celts. He happened to meet the trio, expressed his interest in Enya's music, and so she agreed to sign with Warner Music UK. The initial record deal granted her considerable artistic freedom and minimal interference. The success of Watermark (1988) propelled Enya to worldwide fame, helped mostly by the international hit single "Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)". This was followed by the multi-million-selling albums Shepherd Moons (1991), The Memory of Trees (1995), and A Day Without Rain (2000). Sales of A Day Without Rain and its lead single, "Only Time", surged in the United States following its use in media coverage of the 9/11 attacks. After Amarantine (2005) and And Winter Came... (2008), Enya took a four-year break from music, returning to the recording studio in 2012 to begin work on her eighth studio album Dark Sky Island (2015).

Regarding a new album, there have been several mentions by close sources of Enya, particularly her siblings, about Enya recording new music since her 2015 album. According to her sister Moya, Enya was recording music as of 2019.[4] Enya's latest statement in-print, from the vinyl release of A Box of Dreams in June 2023: "Beidh muid ag teacht le chéile gan mhoile", is approximated as "we will meet again soon". [5]

Early life

Enya's home area of Gweedore, pictured from above in 2008

Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin was born in the Dore area of Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore) in County Donegal on 17 May 1961.[6] She is the sixth of nine children in the Brennan family of musicians, born to Máire "Baba" and Leopold "Leo" Brennan.[7] In 1968, the couple took ownership of a pub in Meenaleck, Co. Donegal, naming it Leo's Tavern.[8] Leo Brennan (1925-2016) was the leader of an Irish showband named the Slieve Foy Band, before performing solo. Baba Brennan (née Duggan; born 1930) has remote Spanish roots with ancestors who settled on Tory Island[9] and she was an amateur musician who played with the Slieve Foy Band.[10][11] Enya's mother also taught music at Gweedore Community School.[12]

Leo's Tavern, the pub owned by Enya's family, currently under the proprietorship of her younger brother Bartley.[8]

Irish is the primary language in the area Enya is from. Her name is anglicised as Enya Patricia Brennan,[13] with "Enya" being the phonetic spelling of how "Eithne" is pronounced in the Donegal Ulster dialect. "Ní Bhraonáin" translates to "daughter of Brennan".[14] Enya's maternal grandfather, Aodh, affectionately called "Gog", was the headmaster of the primary school in Dore; her grandmother was a teacher. Aodh was also the founder of the Aisteoiri Ghaodobhair, the Gweedore Theatre company.[15]

Enya has described her upbringing as "very quiet and happy"[16] and expressed that " it was difficult to be heard, but I was very comfortable with that because I was able to be myself, able to be let alone.”[17] However, she has acknowledged that there was "continual hustle and bustle and crying and chaos" amongst the nine siblings. Their maternal grandparents were quite involved with the siblings' upbringing at home, as their parents were travelling with the showband; Leo entertaining at the pub, and Baba leading the choir.[18]

Along with the siblings' enjoyment of their childhood spent in Gweedore, they also grew up amidst The Troubles. Enya recalls that when her family visited shops in Derry for instance, "you’d be checked by people standing with guns”, and even for the adults speaking in Irish, it was "pinpointing where you came from, and it was too political at the time. Whereas for us, it was our first language, and we didn’t see anything wrong with it.”[17]

At three-and-a-half years of age, Enya took part in her first singing competition at the annual Feis Ceoil music festival.[15] She also participated in pantomimes at Gweedore Theatre and sang with her siblings in their mother's choir at St Mary's church in Derrybeg. At the age of four, Enya began piano lessons and was learning English throughout primary school. She later said, "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, practising them over and over."[14][19]

As well as traditional Irish music, Enya and her siblings were introduced to a variety of music in the 1960s and 70s, and enjoyed watching musical films. In a radio interview with Elaine Page in November 2008, Enya shared a selection of favourite songs from musicals. She said of Jesus Christ Superstar, "it was such an original piece of music in 1970 [...] played in my house every single day, and myself and my sisters would sing word for word".[20]

From the age of 11, Enya attended a convent boarding school, Milford College, in Milford[15][21] run by the Sisters of Loreto;[22] her education there was paid for by her grandfather.[10][9] The boarding school, now Loreto Community School, was where Enya developed a taste for classical music, art, Latin, and watercolour painting.[9] She said, "It was devastating to be torn away from such a large family but it was good for my music."[14] Enya finished boarding school at age 17 in the late 1970s, and spent a year at college studying classical music. She previously saw herself as teaching the piano,[14] rather than composing and performing her own music.


1980–1982: Clannad

In 1970, several members of Enya's family formed Clannad, a Celtic folk band.[23][24] Clannad hired Nicky Ryan as their manager, sound engineer, and producer, and Ryan's future wife, Roma Shane, as tour manager and administrator.[21][25] In 1980, after a year at college, Enya decided not to pursue a music degree and instead accepted Ryan's invitation to join Clannad, having wanted to expand their sound with keyboards and an additional vocalist.[21][26] Enya performed an uncredited role on their sixth studio album, Crann Úll (1980), with a line-up of elder siblings Moya, Pól, and Ciarán Brennan, and twin uncles Noel and Pádraig Duggan. She features in their follow-up, Fuaim (1981), singing the song An Túll.[9] Ciarán mentioned that Enya was a "hired hand" and not a full member, commenting that "she was 18, 19 and we were paying her £500 sterling a week."[27] In a BBC Radio Ulster interview with Moya in late 2023, she also noted that Enya was considered a hired hand with Clannad.[28] Nicky Ryan said it was not his intention to make Enya a permanent member, as she was "fiercely independent [...] intent on playing her own music. She was just not sure of how to go about it."[21] Nicky discussed the idea of layering vocals to create a "choir of one" with Enya, a concept inspired by Phil Spector's Wall of Sound technique that had interested them both.[21]

During a Clannad tour in 1982, Nicky called for a band meeting to address internal issues that had arisen, primarily around the drinking of one or two members.[17] He recalled: "It was short and only required a vote, I was a minority of one and lost. Roma and I were out. This left the question of what happened with Enya. I decided to stand back and say nothing."[21] Enya chose to leave with the Ryans and pursue a solo career, having felt confined in the group and disliking being "somebody in the background". The split caused some friction between the parties but, in time, they settled their differences.[25] Enya's brother Ciarán also spoke to Nicky Ryan around 2006, interested in recording in their studio with her, but Ryan suggested that this was unlikely to occur.[27] Moya often praises Enya for what she has gone on to achieve in her solo career, and supposes that there were some foundations she had built from her short time with the band.[29]

1982–1985: Early solo career

The former Ryan home in suburban Artane, Enya's residence and site of the original Aigle Studio from 1982 to 1989

Nicky suggested to Enya that either she return to Gweedore "with no particular definite future", or live with him and Roma in suburban Artane, in Dublin, "and see what happens, musically", which Enya decided to try.[30] After their bank denied them a loan, Enya sold her saxophone and gave piano lessons as a source of income. Nicky Ryan used what they could afford to build a recording facility in the Ryans' garden shed, which they named "Aigle Studio", after the French word for eagle.[26][21] Enya lived with the Ryans from 1982, shortly after leaving Clannad, until 1989, when she bought a penthouse apartment in Killiney.[31][32]

Enya and the Ryans rented Aigle Studio out to other musicians to help recoup the costs.[33][34] The trio formed a musical and business partnership, with Nicky as Enya's producer and arranger and Roma as her lyricist.[25] They called their company, of which each owns a third, Aigle Music.[35] In the following two years, Enya developed her technique and composition by listening to recordings of her reciting pieces of classical music and repeated this process until she started to improvise sections and develop her own arrangements.[36]

In the early 1980s following her Clannad departure, Enya recorded with a few artists, often on keyboards or backing vocals, with Nicky Ryan as producer. She also played the synthesiser on the group Ragairne's Ceol Aduaidh, led by Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy.[37] Being one of the earlier choices to sing the song before Maggie Reilly, Enya declined an offer from Mike Oldfield to sing on his single "Moonlight Shadow", likely due to existing contracts.[38][39] "Bailieboro and Me" is a Charlie McGettigan song with the group Jargon; an early recording [1] features Enya singing backing vocals, primarily credited as Eithne Ní Bhraonáin playing the grand piano for the song.[40]

Enya's first solo endeavour was in 1982, when she composed and later released two piano instrumentals, "An Ghaoth Ón Ghrian" (Irish for "The Solar Wind") and "Miss Clare Remembers". Both were recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin and released on Touch Travel (1984), a limited-release cassette compilation of music from various artists on the UK Touch label. She is credited as Eithne Ní Bhraonáin in the liner notes.[41]

After several months of preparation, Enya's first live solo performance took place at the National Stadium in Dublin on 23 September 1983, and was televised for RTÉ's music show Festival Folk.[42] Niall Morris, a musician who worked with her during this time, recalled she "was so nervous she could barely get on stage, and she cowered behind the piano until the gig was over".[43]Morris assisted Enya in the production of a demo tape, adding additional keyboards to her compositions.[43][44]

Roma thought the music would suit accompanying visuals and sent it to various film producers. Among them was David Puttnam, after Roma had read an interview where he stated a particular interest in strong melodies.[45] Puttnam liked the tape and offered Enya to compose the soundtrack to his upcoming romantic comedy film, The Frog Prince (1984).[30] Enya scored nine pieces for the film; later, against her wishes, the pieces were rearranged and orchestrated by Richard Myhill, except for two pieces in which she sang, "The Frog Prince" and "Dreams". The words to "Dreams" were penned by Charlie McGettigan.[46] The film editor Jim Clark said the rearrangements were necessary as Enya found it difficult to compose to the picture.[47]

Released in 1985, the album is the first commercial release that credits her as "Enya".[46] She supposes that "Enya" for her began in 1983.[2] Nicky Ryan suggested the phonetic spelling of her name,[26] thinking that Eithne would be mispronounced by non-Irish speakers. Enya looked back at her composition work on the film as a good career move, but a disappointing one as "we weren't part of it at the end".[16][30] Also in 1985, she sang on three tracks on Ordinary Man (1985) by Christy Moore.[48]

1985–1989: The Celts and Watermark

Enya's stylised signature logo, designed by Laurence Dunmore

In 1985, producer Tony McAuley asked Enya to contribute a track for the six-part BBC television documentary series The Celts.[49] She had already written a Celtic-influenced song called "March of the Celts", and submitted it to the project. Each episode was to feature a different composer at first, but director David Richardson liked her track so much that he had Enya score the entire series.[36][50] Enya recorded 72 minutes of music at Aigle Studio and the BBC studios in Wood Lane, London, without recording to the picture. She was required to portray certain themes and ideas that the producers wanted; however, in contrast with The Frog Prince, she worked with little interference, which granted her freedom to establish the sound[16] that she would adopt throughout her future career, signified by layered vocals, keyboard-oriented music, and percussion with elements of Celtic, classical, church, and folk music.[51]

In March 1987, two months before The Celts aired, a 40-minute selection of Enya's score was released as her debut solo album, Enya, by BBC Records in the United Kingdom[52] and by Atlantic Records in the United States. The latter promoted it with a new-age imprint on the packaging, which Nicky later thought was "a cowardly thing for them to do".[53] The album gained enough public attention to reach number 8 on the Irish Albums Chart and number 69 on the UK Albums Chart.[54] "I Want Tomorrow" was released as Enya's first single.[52] "Boadicea" was later sampled by The Fugees on their 1996 song "Ready or Not"; the group neither sought permission nor gave credit. Enya took legal action and the group subsequently gave her credit; they paid a fee of approximately $3 million. Later in 1987, Enya appeared on Sinéad O'Connor's debut album The Lion and the Cobra, reciting Psalm 91 in Irish on "Never Get Old".[55]

Several weeks after the release of Enya, Enya secured a recording contract with Warner Music UK after Rob Dickins, the label's chairman and a fan of Clannad, took a liking to Enya and found himself playing it "every night before I went to bed".[56] He later met Enya and the Ryans at a chance meeting at the Irish Recorded Music Association award ceremony in Dublin, where he learned that Enya had entered negotiations with a rival label. Dickins seized the opportunity and signed her, in doing so granting her wish to write and record with artistic freedom, minimal interference from the label, and without set deadlines to finish albums.[53][57] Dickins said: "Sometimes you sign an act to make money, and sometimes you sign an act to make music. This was the latter... I just wanted to be involved with this music."[58] Enya left Atlantic and signed with the Warner-led Geffen Records to handle her American distribution.[53]

When asked about whether women in pop have a hard time, she responded "yes, they do. Definitely." However, Enya has considered her position as a composer rather than just a vocalist to be an advantage "because I write and perform much of the music, I'm taken more seriously than the girls who just walk into a studio, do a vocal and that's it. I can't even imagine what that would be like."[59]

With the green light to produce a new album, Enya recorded Watermark from June 1987 to April 1988.[36] It was initially recorded in analogue at Aigle before Dickins requested to have it re-recorded digitally at Orinoco Studios in Bermondsey, London.[60]

Watermark was released in September 1988 and became an unexpected hit, reaching number 5 in the United Kingdom[54] and number 25 on the Billboard 200 in the United States following its release there in January 1989.[53][61] Its lead single, "Orinoco Flow", was the last song written for the album. It was not intended to be a single at first, but Enya and the Ryans chose it after Dickins jokingly asked for a single; he knew that Enya's music was not made for the Top 40 chart. Dickins and engineer Ross Cullum are referenced in the song's lyrics.[62] "Orinoco Flow" became an international top 10 hit and was number one in the United Kingdom for three weeks.[54] The new-found success propelled Enya to international fame and she received endorsement deals and offers to use her music in television commercials.[63] She spent a year traveling worldwide to promote the album which increased her exposure through interviews, appearances, and live performances.[64]

1989–1998: Shepherd Moons, The Memory of Trees and Paint the Sky with Stars

After promoting Watermark, Enya purchased new recording equipment and started work on her next album, Shepherd Moons.[65] She found that the success of Watermark caused a considerable amount of pressure when it came to writing new songs, stating, "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".[66]

Enya wrote songs based on several ideas, including entries from her diary, the Blitz in London, and her grandparents.[67] Shepherd Moons was released in November 1991, her first album released under Warner-led Reprise Records in the United States.[65] It became a greater commercial success than Watermark, reaching number one in the UK for one week[54] and number 17 in the United States.[61] "Caribbean Blue", its lead single, charted at number 13 in the United Kingdom.[54]

In 1991, Warner Music released a collection of five Enya music videos as Moonshadows for home video.[68] In 1993 Enya won her first Grammy Award in the Best New Age Album category for Shepherd Moons. Soon after, Enya and Nicky entered discussions with Industrial Light & Magic, founded by George Lucas, regarding an elaborate stage lighting system for a proposed concert tour, but nothing resulted from those discussions.[69] In November 1992, Warner obtained the rights to Enya and re-released the album as The Celts with new artwork. It surpassed its initial sale performance, reaching number 10 in the UK.[54]


After travelling worldwide to promote Shepherd Moons, Enya started to write and record her fourth album, The Memory of Trees.

By this time, the Ryans had moved to the southern Dublin suburb of Killiney, and a new Aigle Studio had been built alongside their home, with new recording facilities which eliminated the need to go to London to finish recording for the album.[70] The new album was released in November 1995 and peaked at number 5 in the UK[54] and number 9 in the US,[61] where it sold over 3 million copies. Its lead single, "Anywhere Is", reached number 7 in the UK. The second, "On My Way Home", reached number 26 in the UK.[54] In late 1994, Enya put out an extended play of Christmas music titled The Christmas EP.[71] Enya was offered the opportunity to compose the film score for Titanic but declined as it would be a collaboration, rather than solely her composition. A recording of her singing "Oíche Chiúin", an Irish-language version of "Silent Night", appeared on the charity album A Very Special Christmas 3, released in benefit of the Special Olympics in October 1997.[72]

In early 1997, Enya began to select tracks for her first compilation album, "trying to select the obvious ones, the hits, and others."[73] 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...".[74] Released in November 1997, the album was a worldwide commercial success, reaching number 4 in the UK[54] and number 30 in the US,[61] 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."[75]

1998–2007: A Day Without Rain and Amarantine

Enya started work on her fifth studio album, titled A Day Without Rain, in mid-1998. In a departure from her previous albums, she incorporated the use of a string section into her compositions, something that was not a conscious decision at first, but Enya and Nicky Ryan agreed that it complemented the songs that were being written. The album was released in November 2000 and reached number 6 in the UK[54] and an initial peak of number 17 in the US.[76]

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, US sales of the album and its lead single "Only Time" surged after the song was widely used during radio and television coverage of the events,[77] leading to its description as "a post-September 11th anthem".[78] The exposure caused A Day Without Rain to outperform its original chart performance to peak at number 2 on the Billboard 200,[77] and the release of a maxi-single containing the original and a pop remix of "Only Time" in November 2001. Enya donated its proceeds in aid of the International Association of Firefighters. The song topped the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart and went to number 10 on the Hot 100 singles, Enya's highest charting US single to date.[79]

In 2001, Enya agreed to write and perform on two tracks for the soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) at the request of director Peter Jackson.[80] Its composer Howard Shore "imagined her voice" as he wrote the film's score, making an uncommon exception to include another artist in one of his soundtracks.[81] After flying to New Zealand to observe the filming and to watch a rough cut of the film,[77] Enya returned to Ireland and composed "Aníron" (the theme for Aragorn and Arwen), with lyrics by Roma in J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional Elvish language Sindarin, and "May It Be", sung in English and another Tolkien language, Quenya. Shore then based his orchestrations around Enya's recorded vocals and themes to create "a seamless sound".[81]

In 2002, Enya released "May It Be" as a single which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. She performed the song live with an orchestra at the 74th Academy Awards ceremony in March 2002,[82] and later cited the moment as a career highlight.[83]

Enya undertook additional studio projects in 2001 and 2002. The first was work on the soundtrack of the Japanese romantic film Calmi Cuori Appassionati (2001), which was subsequently released as Themes from Calmi Cuori Appassionati (2001).

This release is formed of tracks spanning her career from Enya to A Day Without Rain with two B-sides. The album went to number 2 in Japan and became Enya's second album to sell one million copies in the country.[84]

In 2004, Enya had another significant "Boadicea" sampling request from Diddy, for the song "I Don't Wanna Know" performed by Mario Winans. She said that the producer "phoned the studio we were working in and Nicky took the call and he [Diddy] just said he had this fantastic singer that he was working with and it was Mario Winans. Immediately we said “send the song” and it was a great song."[85]

In September 2003, Enya returned to Aigle Studio to start work on her sixth studio album, Amarantine.[86] Roma said the title means "everlasting".[78] The album marks the first instance of Enya singing in Loxian, a fictional language created by Roma that came about when Enya was working on "Water Shows the Hidden Heart". After numerous attempts to sing the song in English, Irish, and Latin, Roma suggested a new language based on some of the sounds Enya would sing along to when developing her songs. It was a success, and Enya sang "Less Than a Pearl" and "The River Sings" in the same way. Roma worked on the language further, creating a "culture and history" behind it surrounding the Loxian people who are on another planet, questioning the existence of life outside of Earth.[78] "Sumiregusa (Wild Violet)" is sung in Japanese.[78] Amarantine was a global success, reaching number 6 on the Billboard 200[61] and number 8 in the UK.[54] It has sold over 1 million certified copies in the US, a considerable drop in sales in comparison to her previous albums. Enya dedicated the album to BBC producer Tony McAuley who had commissioned Enya to write the soundtrack to The Celts, following his death in 2003.[87] The lead single, "Amarantine", was released in December 2005.[78]

2008–2017: And Winter Came... and Dark Sky Island

Enya wrote 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 second promotional single of the album "My! My! Time Flies!", is a tribute to the late Irish guitarist Jimmy Faulkner, incorporates a guitar solo performed by Pat Farrell,[88] the first guitar solo on an Enya album since "I Want Tomorrow" from Enya. The lyrics also include atypical pop-culture references, such as The Beatles' famous photo shoot for the cover of Abbey Road. Upon its release in November 2008, And Winter Came... reached number 6 in the UK[54] and number 8 in the US[61] and sold almost 3.5 million copies worldwide by 2011.[89]

After promoting 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.[62][90][91][92] Her second compilation album, The Very Best of Enya, was released in November 2009 and featured songs from 1987 to 2008, including a previously unreleased version of "Aníron" and a DVD compiling most of her music videos to date.

In 2012, Enya returned to the studio to record her eighth album, Dark Sky Island. Its name refers to the island of Sark, which became the first island to be designated a dark-sky preserve, and a series of poems on islands by Roma Ryan.

In 2013, "Only Time" was used in the "Epic Split" advertisement by Volvo Trucks starring Jean-Claude Van Damme who does the splits while suspended between two lorries.[93]

Upon the album's release on 20 November 2015, Dark Sky Island went to number 4 in the UK, Enya's highest charting studio album there since Shepherd Moons went to number 1,[54] and to number 8 in the US.[61] A Deluxe Edition features three additional songs.[94] Enya completed a promotional tour of the UK, Europe, the US, and Japan.[95][96][97][98] During her visit to Japan, Enya performed "Orinoco Flow" and "Echoes in Rain" at the Universal Studios Japan Christmas show in Osaka. In December 2016, Enya appeared on the Irish television show Christmas Carols from Cork, marking her first Irish television appearance in over seven years.[99] She sang "Adeste Fideles", "Oiche Chiúin", and "The Spirit of Christmas Past".[100]

2019–present; future project potential

Since late 2019 there has been a significant increase in activity from Enya's official social platforms online.[101] There have been more official Enya posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, updates to Enya tracks and playlists on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music, as well as YouTube channel updates and new content. Several music videos on Enya's official YouTube channel have undergone 4K HD conversion since 2020. Numerous YouTube "watch party" videos and vinyl re-releases marking anniversaries of Enya's music albums and compilations have been released since.

The first of these videos was in November 2020, posted on Enya's official YouTube channel to commemorate the 20th anniversary of A Day Without Rain. In addition to the individual tracks from the album, it included handwritten introductory messages from Enya and Roma Ryan, plus a closing message from Nicky Ryan.[102] Some behind-the-scenes clips from the making of the music videos for "Only Time" and "Wild Child", both directed by Graham Fink, were also included.

For the Shepherd Moons 30th Anniversary Watch Party video in November 2021, Nicky Ryan's introductory message noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Aigle Studio underwent some renovations, with new recording equipment and instruments installed, and that with this done, Enya and the Ryans were eager to start working on new music.[103]

A 20th anniversary vinyl picture disc re-release of the "May It Be" single was also released in late 2021.[104]

Enya's music continues to be sampled or interpolated by many modern-day producers, particularly her 1986 humming song "Boadicea", in songs within the R&B or hip-hop genres. Enya had previously noted for her 2015 album Dark Sky Island, that "several songs here have a stronger beat, and even a little hip-hop influence".[2]

In 2022, for Metro Boomin and The Weeknd's song "Creepin'", Enya didn't approve of the song to be released under the working title "IDWK" (referring to the song I Don't Wanna Know) so Metro reportedly asked Enya to select song titles that she would be happy with, which included "Undecided," "Creepin'", "Don't Come Back to Me", "Better Off That Way" and "Wanna Let You Know". Metro said "Creepin''' was the one [...] It ended up being a blessing because it's the best name for it."[105]

In June 2023, Enya's 1997 limited compilation A Box of Dreams was re-issued on 6 vinyl LPs, featuring new liner notes.[106] Nicky Ryan confirmed that they were working on a new album and the possibility of a book based on the trio's thoughts regarding the Oceans tracks was also mentioned. Enya's note, in Irish, read "Beidh muid ag teacht le chéile gan mhoile", which roughly translates to "We will meet again soon".[5]

On 19 September 2023, a watch party video for the 35th anniversary of Watermark was also presented.[107] Alongside this, vinyl LPs of Watermark and a Dolby Atmos upmixed audio for "Orinoco Flow" were also released.[108]

Enya's official website was rebooted, returned to Warner ownership and stylised in late 2023.

Musical style

The Roland Juno-60, a favourite keyboard of Enya's that she used on Watermark. In 1989, she said: "We wouldn't part with it for anything in the world".[25]

Enya has cited her musical foundations as "the classics", church music, and "Irish reels and jigs"[75] with a particular interest in Sergei Rachmaninoff,[109] a favourite composer of hers. She has an autographed picture of him in her home.[110] Since 1982, she has recorded her music with Nicky Ryan as producer and arranger and his wife Roma Ryan as a lyricist.[23] 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 multi-vocals" for which her music became known.[111] According to Enya, "Angeles" from Shepherd Moons has roughly 500 vocals recorded individually and layered.[112][113] Enya performs all vocals and the majority of instruments in her songs, apart from guest musicians (playing percussion, guitar, violin, uilleann pipes, cornet, and double bass).[23] Her early works, including Watermark, feature piano and numerous keyboard synthesisers [114] including the Yamaha KX88 Master, Yamaha DX7, Oberheim Matrix, Kurzweil K250, Fairlight III E-mu Emulator II, Akai S900, PPG Wave Computer 360, Roland D-50 (famously used with the Pizzagogo patch in "Orinoco Flow"), and the Roland Juno-60, the latter a particular favourite of hers.[115]

Numerous critics and reviewers classify Enya's albums as new-age music and she has won four Grammy Awards in the category. However, Enya does not consider her music as part of the genre; "the only way I can describe it [...] it's Enya music".[3] Nicky Ryan commented on the new age designation: "Initially it was fine, but it's really not new age. Enya plays a whole lot of instruments, not just keyboards. Her melodies are strong and she sings a lot. So I can't see a comparison."[116] In 1988, Enya is believed to have said about New Age music "it's air, thin air. It's a musical drug" and noted its spineless nature, unlike her own music.[117] In a later interview, Enya said that she "felt that title was given to any musician whom critics didn't know how to pigeonhole."[118]

Older artwork often inspires some of the visuals that accompany Enya's music. The 1991 music video for "Caribbean Blue", and the 1995 album cover artwork for The Memory of Trees both feature adapted works from artist Maxfield Parrish.[119] In the 1996 music video for "On My Way Home", scenes of girls lighting paper lanterns to hang in flowery foliage were inspired by John Singer Sargent's painting Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.

In addition to her native Irish, Enya has recorded songs in languages including English, French, Latin, Spanish, and Welsh.[120] She has recorded music influenced by works from fantasy author J. R. R. Tolkien, including the instrumental "Lothlórien" from Shepherd Moons. For The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, she sang "May It Be" in English and Tolkien's fictional language Quenya, and she sang "Aníron" in another of Tolkien's fictional languages, Sindarin. Amarantine and Dark Sky Island include songs sung in Loxian, a fictional language created by Roma Ryan, that has no official syntax. Its vocabulary was formed by Enya singing the song's notes to which Roma wrote their phonetic spelling.[121]

Enya adopted a composing and songwriting method that has deviated little throughout her career. At the start of the recording process for an album, she enters the studio, forgetting about her previous success, fame, and songs of hers that became hits. "If I did that", she said, "I'd have to call it a day".[122] She then develops ideas on the piano, keeping note of any arrangement that can be worked on further. During her time writing, Enya works a five-day week, takes weekends off, and does not work on her music at home.[123] With Irish as her first language, Enya initially records her songs in Irish as she can express "feeling much more directly" in Irish than in English.[124] After some time, Enya presents her ideas to Nicky to discuss what pieces work best, while Roma works in parallel to devise lyrics for the songs. Enya considered "Fallen Embers" from A Day Without Rain a perfect time when the lyrics reflect how she felt while writing the song.[122] In 2008, she newly discovered her tendency to write "two or three songs" during the winter months, work on the arrangements and lyrics the following spring and summer, and then work on the next couple of songs when autumn arrives.[123]

Live performances

Enya says that Warner Music and she "did not see eye to eye" initially as the label imagined her performing on stage "with a piano... maybe two or three synthesizer players and that's it".[26] Enya also explained that the time put into her studio albums caused her to "run overtime", leaving little time to plan for other such projects.[125] She also expressed the difficulty in recreating her studio-oriented sound for the stage. In 1996, Ryan said Enya had received an offer worth almost £500,000 to perform a concert in Japan.[126] In 2016, Enya spoke about the prospect of a live concert when she revealed talks with the Ryans during her three-year break after And Winter Came... (2008) to perform a show at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City that would be simulcast to cinemas worldwide. Before such an event could happen, Nicky suggested that she enter a studio and record "all the hits" live with an orchestra and choir to see how they would sound.[26]

Enya has sung with live and lip-syncing vocals on various talk and music shows, events, and ceremonies throughout her career, most often during her worldwide press tours for each album.[127] In December 1995, she performed "Anywhere Is" at a Christmas concert at Vatican City with Pope John Paul II in attendance; he later met and thanked her for performing.[125] In April 1996, Enya performed the same song during her surprise appearance at the fiftieth birthday celebration for Carl XVI Gustaf, the king of Sweden and a fan of Enya's.[73] In 1997, Enya participated in a live Christmas Eve broadcast in London and flew to County Donegal afterward to join her family for their annual midnight Mass choral performance,[125] in which she participates each year.[128] In March 2002, she performed "May It Be" with an orchestra at the year's Academy Awards ceremony. Enya and her sisters performed as part of the local choir Cor Mhuire in July 2005 at St. Mary's church in Gweedore during the annual Earagail Arts Festival.[129]

Personal life

Manderley Castle, Enya's home since 1997

Known for her private lifestyle, Enya has said, "The music is what sells. Not me, or what I stand for... that's the way I've always wanted it."[125][130] She is unmarried and childfree, but has many nieces and nephews and is considered an aunt to the Ryans' two daughters, having shared their Artane home for almost a decade.[131][132] In 1991, 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."[133] A relationship she had with one man ended in 1997,[73] around the time when she considered taking time out of music to have a family, but found she was putting pressure on herself over the matter and "gone the route [she] wanted to go".[122]

At an auction in 1997, Enya spent £2.5 million[134] on a 157-year-old Victorian listed castellated mansion in Killiney.[135][136] Formerly known as Victoria Castle and Ayesha Castle, the house was renamed by Enya as Manderley Castle after the house featured in Daphne du Maurier's novel Rebecca (1938).[137] Prior to moving into the castle, Enya was believed to have resided in London, and spent time there throughout the 2000s. She spent several years renovating the castle, and installing considerable security measures because of threats from stalkers.[136] The improvements covered gaps in the house's outer wall, installed new solid timber entrance gates and 1.2-metre (4 ft) iron railings, and brought the surrounding 41 metres (135 ft) of stone wall up to a new height of 2.7 metres (9 ft).[135] In late 2005, the property had two security breaches; during one incident, two people attacked and tied up one of her housekeepers before stealing several items.[138] Enya alerted police by raising an alarm from her safe room.[139] Enya oversaw most of the interior design (decorations and furnishings of her castle); she was "not going to trust that to anyone else".[110]

Enya is not known to express political opinions, although a translated quote from a Belgian interview in 1988 — "generations old potentates and politicians have reduced the whole nation to beggary"[117] — provides a slight insight into her stance on political and social matters. She also admires the authors Oscar Wilde and J. R. R. Tolkien, in addition to the current Pope Francis.[140] Enya has identified herself as "more spiritual than religious" and has said that she sometimes prays, but prefers "going into churches when they're empty".[116]

Aside from music, Enya has an appreciation for art, and as of 2000 was collecting artworks by Irish artists including Jack Butler Yeats and Louis le Brocquy and the British artist Albert Goodwin. [110] First editions of books are also something Enya enjoys collecting.[110] Enya recalled reading books in her youth such as The Lord of the Rings, and Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton, prior to going to boarding school herself.[17] Visual-media-wise, she has mentioned watching operas, such as Madame Butterfly at the Sydney Opera House, and enjoying classic black-and-white films, especially those directed by Alfred Hitchcock. She is also drawn to crime drama or period drama series, such as Breaking Bad, and Mad Men, saying "myself, Nicky, and Roma are huge fans of Breaking Bad. We just didn't miss an episode."[118]


Main article: Enya discography

The discography of Enya includes 26.5 million certified album sales in the United States[141] and an estimated 82 million record sales worldwide, making her one of the best-selling musicians of all time.[142] A Day Without Rain is the best-selling new-age album, with an estimated 16 million copies sold worldwide.[143] In the United Kingdom and Ireland, Enya's most successful single in the charts was "Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)", reaching number one on 23 October 1988, holding the top placing for three consecutive weeks.[144] In 1991, Enya's album Shepherd Moons entered the charts at number one on 16 November 1991.[145] Enya's awards include seven World Music Awards, four Grammy Awards for Best New Age Album,[146] and an Ivor Novello Award. She was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for "May It Be", a song she wrote for the film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001).

Studio albums so far:

Recognition and legacy

Awards and nominations

Billboard Music Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2001 Enya Top Billboard 200 Artist - Female Won
Top New Age Artist Won
A Day Without Rain Top Internet Album Nominated
Top New Age Album Won
2002 Won
Enya Top New Age Artist Won
Top Adult Contemporary Artist Nominated

BRIT Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1989 Enya International Female Solo Artist Nominated
International Breakthrough Act Nominated
1992 International Solo Artist Nominated
1993 International Solo Artist Nominated

Grammy Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1990 "Orinoco Flow" Best New Age Performance[148] Nominated
Best Music Video[149] Nominated
1993 Shepherd Moons Best New Age Album[150][151][152] Won
1997 The Memory of Trees Won
2002 A Day Without Rain Won
2003 "May It Be" Best Song Written for Visual Media[citation needed] Nominated
2007 "Drifting" Best Pop Instrumental Performance[153] Nominated
Amarantine Best New Age Album[154][155] Won
2017 Dark Sky Island Nominated

IFPI Hong Kong Top Sales Music Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2001 A Day Without Rain Top 10 Best Sales Foreign Albums Won [156]

Japan Gold Disc Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1990 Enya New Artist of the Year[citation needed] Won
1998 Paint the Sky with Stars Best 3 Albums[citation needed] Won
2001 A Day Without Rain International Pop Album of the Year[157] Won
2002 Themes from Calmi Cuori Appassionati Best 3 Albums[citation needed] Won
2006 Amarantine International Album of the Year[citation needed] Won

World Music Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2001 Enya World's Best Selling Irish Artist[158][159] Won
World's Best Selling New Age Artist Won
2002 Won
World's Best Selling Female Artist Won
World's Best Selling Irish Artist Won
2003 Won
2006 Won

Žebřík Music Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
1993 Enya Best International Female Nominated [160]
1997 Nominated [161]
2005 Nominated [162]

Other awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1989 Enya IRMA Award for Best Female Irish Artist[citation needed] Won
1990 "Orinoco Flow" BMI Award for Citation of Achievement[citation needed] Won
1992 Shepherd Moons NARM Award for Best Selling New Age Album Won
Enya IRMA Award for Best Female Irish Artist[citation needed] Won
"Book of Days" Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song[citation needed] Nominated
1998 Enya, Nicky Ryan, and Roma Ryan Ivor Novello Award for International Achievement[citation needed] Won
2001 "May It Be" Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Song[citation needed] Won
2001 Broadcast Film Critics Association for Best Original Song[citation needed] Won
2002 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song[citation needed] Nominated
2002 Academy Award for Best Original Song[citation needed] Nominated
2002 Enya American Music Award for Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist[citation needed] Nominated
Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement[163][164] Won
"Only Time" ECHO Award for Best Single of the Year (International)[citation needed] Won
BDSCertified Spin Awards – 300,000 Spins[citation needed] Won
2003 BMI Award for Citation of Achievement[citation needed] Won
2004 "I Don't Wanna Know" Vibe Award for R&B Song of the Year[citation needed] Nominated
MOBO Award for Best Single[165] Nominated
MOBO Award for Best Ringtone[166] Won
2005 BMI Award for Citation of Achievement[citation needed] Won
2016 Dark Sky Island ECHO Award for Best Female of the Year (International)[citation needed] Nominated

Honorary degrees and namings

In 1991, a minor planet first discovered in 1978, 6433 Enya, was named after her.[167] In June 2007, she received an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland, Galway, for her contributions to music.[168] A month later, she also received an honorary DLitt from the University of Ulster.[169][170] In 2017, a newly discovered species of fish, Leporinus enyae, found in the Orinoco River drainage area, was named after Enya, in reference to her song, "Orinoco Flow".[171][172]

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