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For other uses, see Enya (disambiguation).
Enya in 2001 at the premiere of Sweet November in New York City
Background information
Birth name Eithne Ní Bhraonáin
Also known as Enya Brennan
Born (1961-05-17) 17 May 1961 (age 54)
Gweedore, County Donegal, Ireland
Genres New age,[1] celtic, pop, world
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, musician, producer
Instruments Vocals, piano, keyboards, percussion
Years active 1980–present
Labels WEA, Geffen, Reprise, Warner Bros.
Associated acts Clannad, Moya Brennan, Brídín Brennan
Website enya.com

Enya (born Eithne Ní Bhraonáin; anglicised as Enya Brennan; 17 May 1961) is an Irish singer-songwriter, musician, and producer. She has sold 26.5 million RIAA-certified albums in the US[2] and an estimated 75 million worldwide, making her one of the world's best-selling artists.[3] She is Ireland's best-selling solo artist,[4] and has recorded music with lyricist Roma Ryan and producer and manager Nicky Ryan.

Enya began her music career in 1980 as a member of Clannad, her family's Celtic band. After appearing on two of the band's albums, she left Clannad in 1982 to pursue a solo career. She adopted a distinctive sound through voice-layering, folk melodies, and keyboards[5] on her debut album Enya (1987), produced as the soundtrack for the BBC documentary series The Celts. Her next album, Watermark (1988), was her breakthrough record following the success of its lead single "Orinoco Flow", which reached the top 10 in ten countries and propelled Enya's rise to worldwide fame. Her follow-up albums Shepherd Moons (1991), The Memory of Trees (1995) and A Day Without Rain (2000), continued her success through the 1990s and into the 2000s, helped by the respective charting singles "Caribbean Blue", "Anywhere Is", and "Only Time". Following Amarantine (2005) and And Winter Came (2008), Enya took an extended break from music; she returned in 2012 to record Dark Sky Island (2015).

Though she has never toured, Enya has performed in ten languages[6] and has had a consistent presence on numerous album charts worldwide, including the New age charts, of which A Day Without Rain remains the biggest selling in the genre with over 14 million copies sold.[7][8] Between 1993 and 2007, Enya won four Grammy Awards for Best New Age Album and received a World Music Award in 2001 for Best-Selling Female Artist.[9] Her track "May It Be", recorded in 2001 for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), received an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Song.

Early life[edit]

A sign in Gweedore, Enya's home town. It reads: "Home of Clannad & Enya."

Eithne Ní Bhraonáin was born in Gweedore, County Donegal in the northwest corner of Ireland. The sixth of nine children,[10] Enya was born into an Irish-speaking Catholic family of musicians.[11] Her father Leo ran Leo's Tavern and was the leader of Slieve Foy Band, an Irish showband, and her mother was an amateur musician who played in a dance band and taught music at Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair.[12] "Enya" is an approximate transliteration of how "Eithne" is pronounced in the Donegal dialect of the Irish language, her native tongue.[13][14][15]

Enya described her upbringing as "very quiet and happy."[16] From a young age, she appeared 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 attended Loreto Community School in Milford and then, at twelve, left for boarding school run by nuns where she developed a taste for music, Latin and art. She recalled, "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."[17] During her studies, she aimed at being "a piano teacher sort of person. I never thought of myself composing or being on stage."[18]

In 1970, several of Enya's siblings formed An Clann As Dobhar; they renamed themselves Clannad (Gaelic for "family")[19] in 1973.


1980–87: Clannad, early solo projects, and debut album[edit]

Enya played keyboards and provided backing vocals on Clannad's 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 cover. Her time in the group developed her taste for "travelling and live stage work".[16] In 1981, Enya also became a member of Ragairne, the band of Altan front-woman Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh.[20] In 1982, Enya left Clannad along with their producer and manager Nicky Ryan who encouraged her to pursue a solo career. 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."[19] Ryan suggested to Enya that either she return to Gweedore "with no particular definite future" or live with him and his 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."[18] The three were a partnership, with Nicky being Enya's producer and arranger and Roma her lyricist.[19]

Among Enya's first compositions as a solo artist were two instrumentals, "An Ghaoth Ón Ghrian" (Irish for "The Solar Wind") and "Miss Clare Remembers", recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in 1983 with Nicky and released on Touch Travel (1984), an audio cassette featuring music from various artists.[21] During her initial two years living with the Ryans, Enya produced a demo tape of several piano instrumentals that was sent to film producer David Puttnam, who took a liking to the music. Puttnam then selected her to contribute to the soundtrack of the 1985 romantic comedy film The Frog Prince, of which he served as executive producer.[18] Enya recorded nine tracks for the film at Aigle Studios, a 16-track studio at Nicky's home, that were then orchestrated from her melodies against her wishes, something which she felt "was really nice but we weren't part of it at the end".[16][18]

Enya's first major solo project came about in 1986 when producer Tony McAuley approached her to contribute a track to the 1987 BBC television documentary series The Celts. She recorded "The March of the Celts" with Nicky and submitted it to the project. McAuley liked the track so much, he commissioned Enya to record the entire soundtrack. Unlike The Frog Prince, Enya worked with little interference and "felt a complete freedom to create my sound".[16] Enya became known for her use of layered vocals, keyboard sounds, and music of Celtic elements. Nicky described it as "a choir of one".[17] The music was released as Enya's first solo album, Enya (1987), released through BBC Records in the UK and on Atlantic Records in the US. The album reached No. 69 in the UK and received little public attention at the time. "I Want Tomorrow" was released as a single.[18] "Boadicea" was sampled by The Fugees on their track "Ready or Not"; 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 (1987) by Sinéad O'Connor.

1987–92: Watermark and Shepherd Moons[edit]

A sample of "Na Laetha Geal M'Óige", a song sung in Irish from Enya's breakthrough album, Watermark (1988).

Problems playing this file? See media help.

In 1987, Enya secured a recording contract with WEA Records after Rob Dickens, then chairman of Warner Music UK, became a fan of Enya, playing it "every night before I went to bed".[22] Following a chance meeting in 1987 at the Irish Recorded Music Association Awards in Dublin, Dickens spoke to the three about his interest in signing Enya to his label. Enya accepted, and was given the green-light to produce her second album, Watermark, with complete artistic freedom without the label's interference.[23] Dickins recalled, "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."[24] Enya departed from Atlantic Records, her first US distributor, to the WEA-led Geffen Records.[25]

Watermark was recorded in Dublin and 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."[26] Following its UK release in September 1988, the album went to No. 5; it reached No. 25 in the US following its release through Geffen Records in January 1989. Its lead single, "Orinoco Flow", was a worldwide hit and was No. 1 in the UK for three weeks. The album went on to sell over 1.2 million copies in the UK and over 4 million in the US. The success of Watermark led to Enya's music being used in several television adverts and several music endorsement offers.[27] Enya spent the remainder of 1988 and much of 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.[28]

In 1989, Enya returned to the studio start work on Shepherd Moons with new equipment purchased from the profits of Watermark.[29] The success of Watermark put "a lot of pressure" when it came to writing new material; "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 in the studio."[30] Without a change in musical direction, Enya wrote songs based on several ideas, including her personal diaries, The Blitz in London, and her grandparents.[31] Released in November 1991, 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 in the top 200 albums and sold 5 million copies there. Its first single, "Caribbean Blue", peaked at No. 13 in the UK. The album earned Enya her first Grammy Award for Best New Age Album in 1993.

A collection of Enya's music videos were released in 1991 as Moonshadows. In November 1992, Enya's first album was remastered and repackaged as The Celts.

1992–98: The Memory of Trees and Paint the Sky with Stars[edit]

After the promotional tour for Shepherd Moons, Enya spent a year's break travelling before starting work on her fourth 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.[32] In December 1995, Enya performed at the Vatican Christmas concert and met Pope John Paul II and, in April 1996, a surprise appearance at the fiftieth birthday celebration of the King of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf.[33]

In February 1997, Enya began selecting tracks for a compilation album, Paint the Sky with Stars: The Best of Enya, "trying to select the obvious ones, the hits, and others."[33] 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 a "best of" album. Two new songs were recorded for the set, "Paint the Sky with Stars" and "Only If...".[34] 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. I can remember writing the melody, working on the song ... your mind goes back to that day and what you were thinking."[35]

In 1997, Industrial Light & Magic, founded by George Lucas, pitched ideas to Enya with the development of a lighting system for a proposed concert tour. The idea began following the release of Shepherd Moons, though neither plan took place.[36] 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.

1998–05: A Day Without Rain, "Only Time", and "May It Be"[edit]

In 1998, Enya began work on her fifth album, A Day Without Rain. Released in November 2000, A Day Without Rain remains Enya's highest selling album. It peaked at No. 2 in the US, where it sold over 7 million copies, and No. 6 in the UK. In 2000, Warner Music released Enya: The Video Collection on DVD, featuring music videos and bonus features.

The album's first single, "Only Time", is Enya's most successful following its use in television adverts promoting Friends and various reports about the 11 September 2001 attacks.[37] The response prompted a special maxi single released in November 2001 with a pop remix of the song, from which its proceeds were donated to the International Association of Firefighters. The national exposure resulted in the song reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart and No. 10 on the Hot 100 singles.[38] Billboard described the track as "a post-September 11 anthem".[39] In Germany, the single sold over 750,000 copies. Enya won an ECHO Award in 2001 for the best-selling international single and a nomination for best-selling album.[40][41] The second single from A Day Without Rain, "Wild Child", was released in December 2001.

Enya recorded "May It Be", which was featured in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, earning her an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. It was her second consecutive single to enter the German charts at number one. The video features scenes from the Peter Jackson film.[42] Enya also performed the song "Aníron" – a song sung in Tolkien's Elvish language Sindarin – for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

2005–12: Amarantine, And Winter Came..., and break[edit]

Amarantine, Enya's sixth studio album, was released in November 2005.[39] 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.[43] "Sumiregusa (Wild Violet)" is sung in Japanese.[39] In 2007, Amarantine won Enya's fourth Grammy Award for Best New Age Album.[44] 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. The album is dedicated to Tony McAuley, producer of The Celts and invited her to write its music. McAuley died in 2003.[43] The lead single, "Amarantine", was released in December 2005.[39]

In 2006 Enya released Sounds of the Season: The Enya Holiday Collection, a Christmas-themed album in the US in an exclusive partnership with NBC 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.[45]

Enya continued with the Christmas theme on And Winter Came..., her seventh studio album. Released in November 2008, it reached No. 6 in the UK and No. 8 in the US. The album features a guitar on "My! My! Time Flies!", the first time since "I Want Tomorrow" from Enya.

In 2009, Enya's first four studio albums were released in Japan in the Super High Material CD format. A new compilation album, The Very Best of Enya, was also released that year and features songs from 1987 to 2008, including a new 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.[46] Numerous parodies of the commercial appeared YouTube, also using "Only Time". The attention resulted in the song peaking at No. 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

2015–present: Dark Sky Island[edit]

In 2012, Enya returned to the studio to record her eighth album, Dark Sky Island. 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 the Ken Bruce's radio show and with the release in the same month of the single as a digital download.[47] 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.[48] Enya completed a promotional tour of the UK, the US and Japan.[49][50][51][52][53][54] During her visit to Japan, Enya performed "Orinoco Flow" and "Echoes in Rain" at the Universal Studios Japan Christmas show in Osaka.[55]

Musical style[edit]

Enya cited her musical foundations as "the classics", church music, and "Irish reels and jigs".[35]

As a musical group Enya represents a partnership between three people: Enya herself, who composes and performs the music; Nicky Ryan, who produces the albums; and Roma Ryan, who writes the lyrics in various languages, except Irish, in which Enya will render the lyrics herself.[10] Enya performs all instruments and vocals in her pieces unless specified.[10] Although there are certain pieces where acoustic instruments are featured, almost all sounds of her pieces are created by a synthesiser. Her signature sound uses simple arrangements with extensive multi-tracking vocals. The vocals are performed individually and are then layered together to form a virtual choir.[56] According to Enya, Angeles, the fifth track on her album Shepherd Moons has about 500 layered vocal tracks, which is a result of making approximately 25 copies of 20 individually layered vocal tracks.[57]

Enya's vocal range is mezzo-soprano.[58]

Amarantine and Dark Sky Island include songs sung in Loxian, a language invented by Roma Ryan of which there is no official syntax.[10] The vocabulary is formed by Enya singing the notes to which Roma provides the phonetic writing.[59] Enya has also sung songs written entirely or partially in Welsh, Spanish, French, and languages by J. R. R. Tolkien. Enya has performed several songs relating to The Lord of the Rings, including "Lothlórien", an instrumental, and "May It Be" (sung in English and Quenya), and "Aníron" (in Sindarin)—the latter two appearing in Peter Jackson's film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. "May It Be" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Enya's performances are "semi-live", using playback music and singing. She has given live performances on various television shows, events and ceremonies (one of her recent appearances was in Gweedore in the summer of 2005, which coincided with a tribute event to the Brennan family that took place in Letterkenny), but she has yet to do a concert.[60] Although Enya's albums are hailed as seminal pieces of the genre of new-age music and she has won four Grammy Awards in that category, she does not classify her music as belonging to that genre. When asked what genre she would classify her music as belonging to, she would reply, "Enya".[10]

Personal life[edit]

Enya's home in Killiney, County Dublin

In 1997, Enya bought a castle in Killiney, County Dublin for £2.5 million, outbidding Michael Flatley in auction,[61] and named it Manderley Castle after the house in her favourite book, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. During her three-year break from writing and recording after the release of The Very Best of Enya in 2009, Enya bought a home in the south of France, which she described as a "home away from home".[62]

Since the late 1980s, Enya has attracted the attention of several stalkers. As a result, Enya spent roughly £250,000 on extra security for her home including covering gaps in the outer wall, and the installation of bollards, iron railings,[61] and a panic room. In 1996, a man who had been seen in Dublin wearing a photograph of Enya around his neck, stabbed himself after being ejected from her parents' pub.[63] In 2007, an individual broke into her Killiney home and attacked one of its staff members.[64]

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.[65]

In June 2007, Enya received an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland, Galway.[66] A month later, she received her second from the University of Ulster.[67][68]

"My influences are with Irish music, church music and classical music," she said in a 1997 interview.[69]

In addition to performing for Pope John Paul II, Enya participated in a live broadcast on British television for Christmas Eve in 1997, before she flew home to County Donegal to join her family at midnight Mass.[69] She still sings in her mother's choir every Christmas at midnight Mass, at St. Mary's Church.[70]

Notable awards and tributes[edit]


Main article: Enya discography

Music videos[edit]


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External links[edit]