Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin (anglicised as Enya Patricia Brennan; born 17 May 1961), better known as her stage name Enya, is an Irish singer, songwriter, musician and producer. Born into a musical family and raised in the Irish speaking area of Gweedore in County Donegal, Enya began her professional music career at 18 when she joined her family's Celtic band Clannad in 1980 on keyboards and backing vocals. She left in 1982 with their manager and producer Nicky Ryan to pursue a solo career, with Ryan's wife Roma Ryan as her lyricist. Enya developed her distinct sound over the following four years with multi-tracked vocals and keyboards with elements of new age, Celtic, classical, church, and folk music. She has sung in 10 languages.
Enya's first projects as a solo artist included soundtrack work for The Frog Prince (1985) and the 1987 BBC documentary series The Celts, which was released as her debut album, Enya (1987). She signed with Warner Music in 1987 which granted her considerable artistic freedom and minimal interference from the label. The commercial and critical success of Watermark (1988), Enya's first Warner album, propelled her to worldwide fame, helped by its international top 10 hit single, "Orinoco Flow". 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 the media coverage of the 11 September 2001 attacks. Following Amarantine (2005) and And Winter Came... (2008), Enya took an extended break from 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. She is Ireland's biggest selling solo artist and second overall behind U2, with a discography that has sold 26.5 million certified albums in the United States and an estimated 75 million worldwide. A Day Without Rain (2000) remains the best selling new age album with an estimated 16 million copies sold worldwide. Enya has won several awards throughout her career, including seven World Music Awards, four Grammy Awards for Best New Age Album, an Ivor Novello Award, and was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for "May It Be", a song she wrote for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001).
Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin was born on 17 May 1961 in Dore, an area of the remote parish of Gweedore, County Donegal in northwestern Ireland. It is a Gaeltacht region where Irish Gaelic is the primary language. Her name is anglicised as Enya Patricia Brennan, where Enya is a phonetic spelling of how Eithne is pronounced in Gaelic; "Ní Bhraonáin" translates to "daughter of Brennan". The sixth of nine children, Enya 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), who has Spanish roots, was an amateur musician who played in Leo's band and taught music at Gweedore Community School. Her maternal grandfather Aodh was the headmaster of the primary school in Dore, where her grandmother was a teacher. Aodh was additionally the founder of the Gweedore Theatre company.
Enya described her upbringing as "very quiet and happy." At age three, she took part in her first singing competition at the annual Feis Ceoil music festival. She took part in pantomimes at Gweedore Theatre and sang with her siblings in her mother's choir at St Mary's church in Derrybeg. She learned English at primary school and began piano lessons at four. "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." At eleven, Enya's grandfather paid for her education at a strict convent boarding school in Milford run by nuns of the Loreto order, where she developed a taste for classical music, art, Latin and watercolour painting. "It was devastating to be torn away from such a large family, but it was good for my music." Enya left the school at 17 and studied classical music in college for one year with the aim of fitting "a piano teacher sort of person. I never thought of myself composing or being on stage."
1980–85: Clannad and early solo projects
In the 1970s several members of Enya's family formed Clannad, a Celtic band with Nicky Ryan as their manager, sound engineer and producer and his future wife Roma Ryan assisting with tour management and admin duties. In 1980, after her year at college, Enya accepted Ryan's invitation to join the group as he wished to expand the group's arrangements by incorporating keyboards and an additional backing vocalist. She toured across Europe and played an uncredited role on their sixth album Crann Úll (1980) with a line up of siblings Máire, Pól and Ciarán Brennan and twin uncles, Noel and Pádraig Duggan. Enya had become an official and credited member when Clannad recorded their next album Fuaim (1981), which features a front cover photograph of her with the band. Nicky maintains it was never his intention to make Enya a permanent member, and realised she was "fiercely independent ... intent on playing her own music. She was just not sure of how to go about it". The two entered discussions on the idea of using one voice to form a "choir of one", a concept that interested them both.
In 1982, throughout a Clannad tour of Switzerland, Nicky called for a band meeting as several issues had arisen and felt they needed to be addressed. He added, "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". Enya chose to leave and pursue a solo career with the Ryans, which initially caused a few friction between the three and her family. She explained, "There was a bit of an age gap ... We had great likes and dislikes ... I liked being more independent and found I was somebody in the background." Nicky suggested to Enya that either she return to Gweedore "with no particular definite future", or live with him and Roma in their home, then located in Artane, a northern suburb of Dublin, "and see what happens, musically". They constructed a recording studio with what they could afford, and formed a musical partnership, with Nicky as Enya's producer and arranger and Roma her lyricist. In the following two years, Enya developed her playing and composing by recording herself recite classical pieces on the piano and listening back to them. The process was repeated for a few time until she started to improvise sections and write her own arrangements. Her first was "An Taibhse Uaighneach", Gaelic for "The Lonely Ghost". In addition, Enya played the synthesiser on Ceol Aduaidh (1983) by Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy, and performed with the duo and Mhaonaigh's brother Gearóid in their short lived group, Ragairne.
Among Enya's first recordings were two instrumentals, "An Ghaoth Ón Ghrian" ("The Solar Wind") and "Miss Clare Remembers", put down in 1983 at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin and released on Touch Travel (1984), a cassette of music from various artists. She is credited as Eithne Ní Bhraonáin on its liner notes. Her debut solo performance followed on 23 September 1983 at the National Stadium in Dublin that was televised for RTÉ's music show Festival Folk. Roma then made Enya form a tape of her compositions and sent them to various film producers, thinking her music was best suited to images. David Puttnam was one of them and he liked what he heard. He commissioned Enya to compose the soundtrack to the romantic comedy film The Frog Prince (1985), of which he served as executive producer. Enya wrote and recorded nine tracks for the film at Aigle Studios (French for "eagle"), the name given to the facility installed at the Ryan's home in Artane. Her songs were then orchestrated against her wishes by Richard Myhill using the themes she wrote apart from "The Frog Prince" and "Dreams", the latter's lyrics were penned by Charlie McGettigan. The soundtrack was released in 1985 by Island Visual Arts and is the first commercial release that credits her as "Enya". She looked back on the project as a good career move, but a disappointing one as "we weren't part of it at the end". In 1985, Enya sung on three tracks on Ordinary Man by Christy Moore.
1985–89: The Celts, signing with Warner Music and Watermark
Enya landed her first major solo project in 1985 when producer Tony McAuley commissioned her to write a song for the six-part BBC television documentary series The Celts. Enya recorded a demo tape with "The March of the Celts" and submitted it to the project. Each episode was to feature a different composer at first, but series director David Richardson liked Enya's track so much, he selected her to compose the entire soundtrack. The music was recorded in 1986 at Aigle Studios and the BBC studios in Wood Lane, London without recording to picture, though Enya was required to portray certain themes and ideas that the producers wished for. Unlike The Frog Prince, Enya worked with little interference from management, allowing her "complete freedom to create my sound". The Celts established her sound that she would adopt throughout her career with Nicky, using multi-tracked vocals and keyboards with elements of Celtic, classical, church and folk music.
Music recorded for The Celts was compiled and released as Enya's first studio album Enya, in March 1987 by BBC Records in the United Kingdom and Atlantic Records in the United States. The latter promoted it as a New age album which Nicky thought was "a cowardly thing for them to do". Though it received a low-key release, Enya reached number 8 on the Irish album chart and 69 on the UK Albums Chart. "I Want Tomorrow" was put out as Enya's first single. "Boadicea" was sampled by The Fugees on their 1996 song "Ready or Not"; initially, the group neither sought permission from Enya nor gave her credit. Enya threatened legal action and the Fugees subsequently paid her a fee of around $3 million. In 1987, Enya spoke Gaelic on "Never Get Old" on The Lion and the Cobra by Sinéad O'Connor.
In 1987, Enya secured a recording contract with Warner Music after Rob Dickens, then chairman of the label's division based in the United Kingdom and a fan of Clannad, became a fan of Enya, playing it "every night before I went to bed". During a chance meeting with Enya and the Ryans at the Irish Recorded Music Association Awards in Dublin that year, Dickens learned that Enya planned to sign with a rival record label. He finalised a deal for her with Warner at £75,000, promising artistic freedom, minimal interference from management, and no set deadlines to finish albums. Dickins recalled: "Sometimes you sign an act to make money, and at times you sign an act to make music. This was clearly the latter ... I just wanted to be involved with this music." Enya then left Atlantic and signed with the Warner-led Geffen Records to handle her American distribution.
With the green-light to produce a new album, Enya recorded Watermark from June 1987 to April 1988. It was initially recorded in demo form at Aigle Studio before it was re-recorded at Orinoco Studios in London. Released on 19 September 1988, the album went to number five in the United Kingdom and 25 on the Billboard 200 in the United States following its release there in January 1989. Its lead single, "Orinoco Flow", was the last song written for the album. It wasn't intended to be a single at first, but Enya and the Ryans chose it after Dickens had requested for a single several times as a joke, knowing Enya's music wasn't made for the top-40 chart. Dickens and engineer Ross Cullum are referenced in the songs' lyrics. "Orinoco Flow" became an international top 10 hit and went to number one in the United Kingdom for three weeks, the first single from Warner to reach the top spot in six years. By 1996, Watermark was certified multi-platinum for sales in excess of 1.2 million copies in the United Kingdom and four million in the United States. Its commercial success propelled Enya to international fame, which led to several endorsement offers and television commercials using her music. She embarked on a year-long worldwide promotional tour which included interviews and live performances, thus increasing her exposure.
1989–97: Shepherd Moons and The Memory of Trees
Following her promotional tour for Watermark, Enya purchased new recording equipment and started work on her next album, Shepherd Moons. 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. Shepherd Moons was released in November 1991, her first album released under Warner-led Reprise Records in the United States. It became a greater commercial success than Watermark, reaching number one at home for one week and number 17 in the United States. "Caribbean Blue", its lead single, charted at number thirteen in the United Kingdom. By 1997, the album had reached multi-platinum certification for selling in excess of 1.2 million copies in the United Kingdom and 5 million in the United States.
In 1991, Warner Music released a collection of five Enya music videos as Moonshadows for home video. In 1993, Enya won her first Grammy Award for Best New Age Album 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 came out of the meetings. In November 1992, Warner had 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 United Kingdom and reached platinum certification in the United States in 1996 for one million copies shipped.
After travelling worldwide to promote Shepherd Moons, Enya started to write and record her fourth album, The Memory of Trees. The album was released in November 1995. It peaked at number five in the United Kingdom and number nine in the United States, where it sold over 3 million copies. Its lead single, "Anywhere Is", reached number seven in the United Kingdom. The second, "On My Way Home", reached number twenty-six in the same country. In late 1994, Enya put out an extended play of Christmas music titled The Christmas EP. 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 charity album A Very Special Christmas 3, released in benefit of the Special Olympics in October 1997.
In early 1997, Enya began to select 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 storey and I live through that whole storey 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...
Enya started work on her fifth studio album A Day Without Rain in the middle of 1998. In a departure from her previous albums, Enya incorporated greater use of a string section, something that wasn't a conscious decision as Enya and Nicky thought it complemented the songs she had developed. A Day Without Rain was released in November 2000. It went to number six in the United Kingdom and reached an initial peak at number seventeen in the United States. Its lead single, "Only Time", was released in November 2000, but gained popularity after its widespread use on US radio and television following the 11 September 2001 attacks. The exposure caused A Day Without Rain, which spent much of its time on the US chart in the 20s and 30s, to climb 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 in J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional Elvish language Sindarin, and "May It Be", sung in English and Quenya, another Tolkien language. Shore then based orchestrations around her vocals and themes 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 after 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 after "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 additionally 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 studio album there after Shepherd Moons went to No. 1, 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.
Enya's vocal range is mezzo-soprano. She once cited her musical foundations as "the classics", church music, and "Irish reels and jigs" with a particular interest in Sergei Rachmaninoff, a favourite composer of hers. She has an autographed picture of him in her home. Since 1982, she has recorded her music with Nicky Ryan as producer and arranger 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 she has won four Grammy Awards in the category. Notwithstanding Enya doesn't classify her music as part of the genre. When asked what genre she would classify her music, her reply was "Enya". Nicky Ryan commented on the new age comments: "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." 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, additionally 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's no official syntax. Its vocabulary is formed by Enya singing the notes to which Roma provides its phonetic spelling afterwards.
Enya has yet to undertake a concert tour, notwithstanding hinting about the idea after the late 1980s and numerous requests from around the world. She explained that producing her studio albums cause her to "run overtime", leaving time for additional projects to run out. She additionally expressed the difficulty in recreating her studio-oriented sound on stage. In 1996, Nicky revealed an offer worth close to £500,000 from Japan for a single concert.
Enya has sung with live and lip synching vocals on various talk and music shows, events, and ceremonies throughout her career, usually throughout her promotional tours for each album. In December 1995, she performed "Anywhere Is" at a Christmas concert at Vatican City with Pope John Paul II in attendance, who met and thanked her for performing. In April 1996, Enya performed the song throughout her surprise appearance at the fiftieth birthday celebration for Carl XVI Gustaf, the King of Sweden and fan of Enya's.
In 1997, Enya participated in a live Christmas Eve broadcast in London and flew to County Donegal afterwards to join her family for their annual midnight Mass choral performance, in which she partakes each year.
In 1997, Enya bought Manderley Castle, a Victorian Grade A listed castle home in Killiney, County Dublin for £2.5 million at auction. Formerly known as Victoria and Ayesha Castle, she renamed the castle after the house from the book Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. In 2009, throughout her three-year break from music, Enya purchased a home in southern France.
Since the 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 panic room. The incident led Enya to spend roughly £250,000 on security improvements, covering gaps in the castle's outer wall and installing bollards and iron railings.
Enya is known for keeping a low profile and quite 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 isn't married and has no children. In 1991, she said: "I'm afraid of marriage because I'm afraid someone might want me because of who I'm 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 man ended in 1997. She declares herself as "more spiritual than religious ... I derive from religion what I enjoy."
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. The 2016 edition, which listed its top 50 "Music Millionaires of Britain and Ireland", she emerged as the richest female singer with a fortune of £91 million for a place at No. 28.
- Studio albums