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Enya

Source: Hello! (UK) (November 17, 2005)
Interview by: Ian Woodward


The sun beats down on Avenue Montaigne as chic pavement caf�s do brisk business on a warm autumn day in Paris. Up on the third floor of the hotel suite, the photographer is busily setting up his lights, as room staff come and go with refreshments and a phalanx of aides anxiously await the arrival of Enya.

It has been a long wait. Five years, to be precise, since the famously reclusive Irish singer-composer brought out her last album, the 13-million-selling A Day Without Rain, and eight years since she did any real press.

Despite being one of the world�s biggest-selling artists - with sales of 65 million albums, putting her alongside other financially hot female singers such as Cher, Madonna and Whitney Houston � whatever you do, don�t call her "famous".

Ranked among Ireland�s richest people, she has never been a part of the glitzy showbiz social scene, making it very clear that she prefers the solitude of her Killliney castle to the gaze of the public spotlight.

This, along with her monastic working methods, has fuelled a perception of 44-year-old Enya � who is single and childless � as a solitary figure whose devotional ties to her music have made her oblivious to worldly concerns.

Eventually there is a knock on the unlocked door of the Plaza Athenee and the singer � a small woman of dark, delicate looks and skin so white it�s almost luminous � enters the room shyly, quietly, and offers her hand.

All the fuss, which she probably wishes would go away, has been orchestrated for the UK and worldwide release on November 21 of Amarantine, her first album in half a decade; it will be preceded a week earlier by a single of the same name.

Later in the evening, amid the opulent surroundings of Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte, built for Louis XIV�s finance minister 55 kilometres south-east of Paris, her return to the public arena will be celebrated with a lavish banquet and a fireworks display ending with "Enya" spelt in the night sky.

But there was a worry just three weeks earlier that the celebrations might have to be postponed, after it was reported that she was in a state of shock following a narrow escape from an intruder at her castle, which had already had an estimated �170,000 spent on protection and safety measures.

The trespasser had reportedly tied up a maid and then spent the next two hours searching high and low for Enya, who, after discovering via CCTV cameras that the man had made his way through the six-bedroom castle�s defences, had locked herself in what the reports called a "panic room. He made his escape with a number of items before the police arrived.

"We still have no clues as to who it was and why he did it," confides the singer, talking about the incident for the first time. "I suppose this is the downside of my success, and yet from day one at the castle I've upped my security. I'd never walk around with six bodyguards � that would just draw attention to me � but I am very vigilant when I'm out and about."

Less than a week earlier, another man who had broken into her home was arrested. A few years ago, a 31-year-old Italian obsessed with Enya moved to Dublin to be near her � and then stabbed himself outside a County Donegal pub owned by her parents.

Her mail from fervent fans comes across the spectrum. Lonely teenagers confide in her, while a corporate lawyer in a Manhattan penthouse gushes that Enya "takes me by the hand" when he plays her albums. "Some fans say they�ve got life's answers from me," she says. "It makes me slightly uncomfortable, this level of interest in me." This is not a person who relishes close scrutiny: no other best-selling international artist, perhaps, maintains such a low profile.

"This last break-in was a very traumatic moment for me," she continues, talking in a soft Irish brogue. "But it was very important to try and get over it as soon as possible, so I went to work the very next day. I felt that it was vital not to give too much time to such a negative event in my life."

As she talks she fiddles with a chunky ebony-and-silver crucifix hanging from a chain around her neck.  "It's an antique," she explains.  "I bought it in New York: hunting for antiques is one of the things I do when I�m travelling.  I�ve still got loads of spaces in the castle I need to fill with period pieces."

The imposing, 19th-century clifftop fortress, looking out over Dublin bay, is an appropriate backdrop for an artist who craves privacy.  She splashed out some £2.5 million to buy it and moved in nearly eight years ago, though it was in a poor state of repair.

"It doesn�t have huge ballrooms � I didn't want a cold, cavernous place � it's very homely for a castle," says the artist, who took a year out in 2003 to finish restorations.

"I knew the moment I saw it that one day I�d be able to make it how it is now. The instant I walked through the door I knew I'd 'come home' because I find castles to be magical places. It was love at first sight."

But there is no special man to share, in a serious, romantic way, that love with her. She sees nothing unusual in this, claiming that her work comes first and insisting that she needs her space. "After a bad day in the studio I'm dark and difficult to be with," she discloses. "I want and need to be on my own. I ask you, what sort of man would be able to adapt to someone like me?... Relationships have always clashed with my lifestyle."

She continues: "It suits me to live alone because I�m not someone who can break off from writing a song, go away for a weekend, then come back. When I'm working I have no sense of humour: I'm serious, a worrier� Falling madly in love and getting married would be the most horrific thing that could happen."

Marriage, she says, was simply never a priority. "My first love and my present love is music. My affairs are with melody and words and beautiful sounds. If finding Mr. Right happens, then it happens; if it doesn't happen, then it doesn�t happen. No problem.�

She was born Eithne Ni Bhraonain on May 17, 1961, in Gweedore, County Donegal, into a musical family. Her grandparents were in a band that played throughout Ireland; her father Leo was the leader of a popular Irish show band; and her mother Maire, once the band vocalist, teaches music.

Enya (a transliteration of the Gaelic pronunciation of Eithne), one of nine musical children, was trained in classical music rather than the Irish folk scene and at 19 joined the family band. Despite the difficulty of parting with a family group, she decided to leave to pursue her own unique music vision.

Since 1988, her successes have soared with hits like Orinoco Flow, three Grammy Awards, and the Oscar-nominated May It Be for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. In 17 years she has released only seven albums, each taking on average two and a half years to produce.

Her chosen lifestyle of locking herself in a studio very day for years on end, and then disappearing to her castle at night, has defined her image as a publicity-shy recluse.  "But I'm not reclusive," she insists. "I just have a private life, and love the fact that I can do so."

"I've always been very private. I was brought up with four sisters and four brothers, a large, protective group where a quiet moment would be very rare, and very early on I realised that I needed my own space from the chaos and the continual bustle. So I live alone."

Does she ever through wild parties at her castle? She balks at the word wild. "When I finished restoring the castle," she says, "I did have some dinner parties to show it off� but I do prefer my own company."

As for mentions of sexual connotations in her music's watery imagery, this brings a slight blush followed by firm rebuke. "My music is emotional, not sexy. Some people think I'm very melancholy. I'm not, but my melodies are."

Enya is a dignified, demure woman � whose favourite designers are Jasper Conran and interestingly John Galliano � and it's safe to assume that she won't be spotted frolicking around town in the latest club wear. At the chateau party she weaves among guests, chatting en route to her table, and she looks calm, composed.  She admits later though: "It's fun to a part of all this, but I woke up this morning with a yearning to go back to Ireland to write music, to go where my feelings are."

Ireland goes through the core of her existence as inextricably as words through a stick of rock. "My first language is Gaelic," she reminds you, adding that she dreams, thinks and counts in the language. She sings in Gaelic, among other tongues, and talks to her parents in Gaelic. "They're incredibly proud at what I�ve achieved, but they'll always see me primarily as their daughter � as their little girl."

Later, in the car on the way back to the Avenue Montaigne and her Paris hotel, she winds up our chat: "All I've known is music. Other than growing older and mellowing, I don't think I've changed because of the success."

"I'm not putting on a front:  what you se, it was you get � me.  I've only ever done what I�ve felt comfortable doing.  I'll never change, never."





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