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The ever echoing, ever ethereal, ever enchanting Enya

Source: Inside Bay Area (USA) (February 3, 2006)
By: Tom Lanham

IT'S A HUMOROUS, slightly telling metaphor. By the window of her hotel suite sits an antique telescope, pointed at the Manhattan street 20 stories below. Has reputedly reclusive Celtic chanteuse Enya been studying society from afar, searching for new song ideas?

No, she laughs, sinking into a cushiony couch with a glass of Evian, the spyglass simply came with the room. "So it's more of I prop, I guess. I don't use it — it just looks good."

As does the County Donegal-born artist herself.

At 44, Enya would make a perfect spokesmodel for a cosmetic company. Her slim frame and smooth alabaster complexion make her appear at least 10 years younger, and her flowing black velvety dress, onyx cross pendant and suede boots add an extra regal touch, befitting pop music's reigning princess.

But she's alone in this big echoey chamber, as she is in the ancient Irish castle where she resides, or in the spacious recording studio she built with her collaborators, husband/wife team Nicky and Roma Ryan (arranger/producer and lyricist, respectively).

Alone in life as well. Enya, one of the richest women in her homeland, remains unmarried. Did she compose her lushly-textured new Reprise set, "Amarantine," peeking from a crow's-nest turret with binoculars?

She's not really Rapunzel, Enya wants to clarify. Even though it may look that way to the legion of mystified fans who snapped up 13 million copies of her last album from 2000, the Grammy-winning "A Day Without Rain."

She gets out, socializes. And once you get past the drawbridge, inside that castle, she giggles, "It's All Mod Cons — you'd be surprised."

With "Rain" came a dramatic decision, she adds. "I found that I needed more (personal) time, so it became a four-day week for me. Monday through Thursday, in the studio, and Thursday I'm done. And I take off holidays, as well, because I find that that's when I write — when I'm with friends, with family, when I'm walking on the beach, when I'm on holiday."

Enya knows it's ironic. But she finds composing to be inextricably linked to moments of relaxation.

"And I'm not sure exactly when it occurs, when I'll have an idea for a song," she says. "But anything that is moving to me or anything that I take notice of is going to be an inspiration to me at some time. Because what I do is gather them all, and I go back to the studio where there are no distractions, and what comes forth are all the little inspirations and all those moments, anything that's kind of moved me in any way."

Which accounts for the keyboardist's droplet-drizzling melody in "Listen to the Rain," the forceful gush of "The River Sings," or the gentle powder-soft drift of "Amid the Falling Snow" on "Amarantine."

You don't just listen to an Enya album. You genuinely feel it, visualize it as well. And that's been her one great strength, ever since she first quit her family band Clannad in the mid-'80s to compose film soundtracks. The die was cast in'88, when the symphonic single "Orinoco Flow" pushed parent album "Watermark" past the 8 million mark, straight into the then-nascent New Age movement.

While New Age soon turned old hat, Enya (born Eithne Ni Bhraonain) stayed the streuselled course, wafting between thick layers of keyboards and trilling Roma Ryan lyrics in Latin, Gaelic, Welsh and Spanish — and even Tolkien Elvish for "May It Be" (the Oscar and Golden-Globe-nominated theme song from Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings — The Fellowship of the Ring").

For "Amarantine," Ryan even invented her own ethereal language called Loxian (which sort of resembles chinchilla toothmarks, as printed in the lyric booklet). Enya, however, sounds exactly the same.

Mention this to Enya — that she's one of the few performers in the world who, for two decades, hasn't adapted their sound to fit shifting musical trends — and she shakes her head, amazed at her own perpetual popularity.

She says she sees it as "a longevity struggle," but also that she has continued to simply do what she's most comfortable doing.

Enya's universal appeal perhaps revolves around her peaceful, decidedly apolitical paeans, which have a calming effect at the end of a stressful workday.

Oddly, she recently found herself embroiled in politics, when her gossamer "Rain" single "Only Time" was played behind conversely horrific TV news coverage of 9/11.

"It's strange, at first, when you think about it," ponders Enya, who eventually issued a benefit version of "Only Time," with proceeds going to victims' families.

"But 'Only Time' talks about the fact that time will heal. It won't get rid of the wound, but time will bring back a sense of normality that is important to your life. That's what the song is about, so when I thought of that, I could see why there were certain songs that people started listening to. They were trying to get back to where they were, to feel in some way. But they would hurt for a long time."

Enya herself finds happiness in simple things, like collecting rare pieces of antique jewelry inlaid with her favorite stone, onyx.

But how does she answer the castle door when UPS drops by with another shipment? She shudders, "I would not be answering the door, because of security reasons."

It's with good reason. Last October, a stalker weaseled onto her property, tied up her maid, and spent two hours combing the castle for the singer (who summoned authorities from a panic room). A week earlier, another deranged fan broke into a separate six-bedroom abode.

What did they want? "I don't care about that � a stalker is a stalker," she says. "Somehow, they get an obsession with either the music or with me, and that's something that started, day one, with 'Watermark.' So you just have to be wary of this. But I don't give it a lot of space. The next day I was right back in the studio. I don't sit there, not living my life because of it."

Indeed. Enya even boldly attended the Golden Globe and Oscar ceremonies for her "May It Be" nominations. And she had a blast, she reports, "Just sitting in the green room, with Tom Hanks and his wife just a few feet away, talking to Carrie Fisher. And there were a few people I met who wanted to meet me, like Ben Kingsley. He said 'I'm a big fan,' and I was able to say back that I was a big fan of his work, too."

The best part of Oscar night, she says, came because she was performing in the show. In a positively schoolgirl-giddy tone, she reveals, "The whole weekend, I had access to all areas. I mean, everybody in security had a badge, but I had access to all areas. And I absolutely loved that!"

It was the best way to see the stars � no telescope required.

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