Enya biography

  Watch Enya Q & A about her new album Dark Sky Island (2015)

Born Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin on May 17, 1961, in Dore, Gweedore, County Donegal, Ireland. Enya Patricia Brennan grew up in North West town land of Dobhair in Donegal. As a middle child and at the age of 11, was sent to a strict boarding school run by nuns, which seemed to have a profound effect on who she was to become. "Boarding school brought out my independence. I didn't have my mum or sisters to answer to. Just God. It got her accustomed also to being cut off from my family."


Discography         Videos         Awards         Recognition         Quotes         Dedicated songs         Languages used         Nicky Ryan         Roma Ryan        
At school, Enya's talent on the piano was spotted and she was drilled. Even during holidays, her childhood memories revolve around relentless work and musical discipline, separating her from her family. On leaving college she was asked by producer Nicky Ryan to join her siblings in their family band. She did so for a short time, but found it too musically restrictive.
In 1982 she followed her destiny. Enya moved with Nicky and Roma Ryan in a small studio. Enya began giving piano lessons to earn some income. In 1984, she approached her first important task. Roma Ryan had sent a cassette of Enya to film producer David Puttnam. He asked her to compose dreamy and romantic music with a sixties feel for the feature film The Frog Prince. Having a studio at her disposal, Enya worked almost always at home with the Roland Juno 60 synthesizer or the Kurzweil sampler, and then added piano and voice. Nicky Ryan recorded everything and helped to put the compositions into their final form.
The next commission was for the BBC. It was to prepare music for an important television documentary series on the history of the Celtic civilisation throughout its 2700 years. The series was called The Celts. The composition took ten months work. The music was liked so much that the BBC decided to release a selection as an independent record, before the series was broadcast and entitled simply Enya, with barely a mention in the liner notes that it was a soundtrack. She played nearly all the instruments on the album, sometimes doubling up as many as eighty voices to create her characteristic sound, of dense textures, and ethereal voices, dreamlike and enchanting. It was to paint by means of synthesizers a modern sonic landscape that could evoke different atmospheres, from the mournful lament of Deireadh An Tuath to the striking Boadicea, with its astounding dynamic of overdubbed voices. Nicky Ryan acted as producer and co-author of the arrangements and his wife Roma wrote nearly all the lyrics, for the most part nearly inaudible or impenetrable, giving an evanescent character to the music by being sung in Latin, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic. Only on three of the pieces did other musicians take part, one on each. Patrick Halling, a classical violinist who frequently plays in recording sessions for rock artists (Jethro Tull and Steve Howe, for example), added delicate nuances to the final track To Go Beyond. The great piper Liam Óg O'Floinn (or Liam O'Flynn, founder member of Planxty and regular collaborator of composer Shaun Davey) played the melody part of The Sun In The Stream. Lastly, the guitarist Arty McGlynn (ex-member of Van Morrison's band and of Planxty and current member of Patrick Street) correspondingly completed with his elegant flourishes the only song whose lyric was comprehensible to us, being in English and sung clearly, I Want Tomorrow. It was, moreover, the song chosen as a single and video. This record subsequently climbed to number one in the Irish charts, which started the commercial rise of Enya.
She signed with an important multinational (WEA), and had a resounding success with her second album Watermark, which has passed 10 million sales worldwide, and has gone platinum in 14 different countries, helped by the single Orinoco Flow, a no. 1 hit in Britain. Other notable tracks: 1st and the title track Watermark, 3rd track On Your Shore refers to Magheragallon Beach at Enya's hometown of Gweedore, 4th track Storms in Africa released as a single became one of the New Age reference songs, 8th track Evening Falls also released as a single (1988, #20 UK Singles Chart) and 11th track Na Laetha Geal M'Oige translated from Irish as "The Brighter Days of My Youth".
Then she repeated her world success with Shepherd Moons, which spent an amazing 199 weeks on the Billboard charts in the USA and has sold over 11 million copies.
A new version of the album Enya was released as The Celts and in 1995 with The Memory of Trees was yet another smash hit album. Enya has been nominated for four Grammy Awards and has won two, both for "Best New Age Album", Shepherd Moons in 1992 and The Memory of Trees in 1997.
In 1997 she released a compilation album titled Paint The Sky With Stars that contained a selection of the Enya better known themes and two new songs: 'Paint The Sky With Stars' and Only If... That year itself came out A Box Of Dreams; a box set that contained a three CD collection and an illustrated booklet. The CDs were entitled Oceans, Clouds and Stars, and they cover the Enya career since her debut in 1987.
The artist spent the remainder of the decade contributing soundtrack material to various projects, before returning to the studio to record A Day Without Rain, her first new studio album in five years. Of this album she says, "The title refers to the mood on a particularly peaceful day on which there was no rain. We do get a lot of rain in Ireland in all seasons. We had a run of days where it had done nothing but rain. Then one day the sun came out. It was then that I wrote the title track, so what else could I call it?".
In later November two new editions of Amarantine were released. The lead single, Amarantine, was released in December 2005. In North America, it was reissued as Amarantine - Special Christmas Edition with a second disc containing the four new Christmas songs previously issued on Sounds of the Season. The UK received a deluxe version of this release (Amarantine - The UK Special Edition) which also included three postcards and a copy of Roma Ryan's book Water Shows the Hidden Heart which is referenced on the original album. Canadian fans could choose from the Special Christmas Edition of Amarantine, or an EP entitled Christmas Secrets which only contained the four new songs.
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!, incorporates a guitar solo performed by Pat Farrell. Upon its release in November 2008, And Winter Came... reached No. 6 in the UK[38] and No. 8 in the US[46] and sold almost 3.5 million copies worldwide by 2011.
In 2012, Enya returned to the studio to record her eighth album Dark Sky Island. The new album was promoted with the premiere in October 2015 of its lead single, Echoes in Rain with an amazing refrain using only the word "alleluia" and the very emotional So I Could Find My Way. Upon its release on 20 November 2015, Dark Sky Island went to No. 4 in the UK, Enya's highest charting studio album there since Shepherd Moons went to No. 1, and to No. 8 in the US.

Enya's music has appeared in many more smash hit films, including "L.A. Story", "Green Card", "Toys", the Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman film Far and Away and Martin Scorcese's "Age Of Innocence". Enya's new song 'Only Time' features in the film, Sweet November, starring Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves. In 2001 she records 2 brand new songs for Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack, "Aniron (theme for Aragorn and Arwen)" and "May It Be".
She has made appearances at benefits and has played for Pope John Paul II (Enya: "I consider myself to be a spiritual person, not necessarily a religious one, although I have to say that one of the highlights of my career was when I performed at the Vatican for the Pope and had an audience with him. My core beliefs would revolve around the idea that we should live to the best of our abilities - we should live and let live."), the King of Sweden and the Queen of England, but these involved playbacks of her work while she played and possibly sang along, not a true live performance. "It'd be a really great thing to do" Enya says of performing live. "We've first been talking about next year, trying to at least do a TV special performance, having the setting, say, in a cathedral or something and involve quite a few people - orchestrating the music, having choir. It'd be fantastic to try. You can't emulate the same sound, but definitely the music can cross over to a rendering for a live performance. We're both very confident about that."


For his entire artistic activities, Enya received two Honorary Degrees: the University of Galway honoured her with Doctor of Music and the University of Ulster honoured Enya with Doctor of Letters.


Grammy 1993 - Best New Age Album (Shepherd Moons); 1997 - Best New Age Album (The Memory of Trees); 2000 - Best New Age Album (A Day Without Rain); 2006 - Best New Age Album (Amarantine)

In 2002 Enya got a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination for "best original song" with May It Be.
Wins three World Music Awards: "best-selling Female artist", "best-selling New Age artist" and "best-selling Irish artist", and wins the award for "best pop-rock single" with Only Time in the Echo Awards (Germany).


In an interview published in 1988, when asked about pets, she replied: "I love cats; at one stage I had 12. It was just bliss. They'd all lie around in the sun and then come up and climb around my neck." Her hobbies include watching romantic black and white movies, collecting artwork, reading, and painting.


Food: Italian, French, Indian. "I don't eat red meat. I eat fish and lots of vegetables. I've been told I'm a very good cook but take forever to prepare one meal. Everything has to be absolutely perfect and nobody is allowed into the kitchen."
Drink: champagne and very dry white wine. Music: classical (Rachmaninoff).


"Looking back on Watermark, the words are those of loss, of reflection, of exile - not necessarily from one's country, but from those whom the heart loves. It has in its theme searching, longing, of reaching out for an answer."
Enya: Each song has its own little story and I can hear the life of that song. You know how it was written, what inspired me, what worked, what didn't work. But the nice thing about spending two to three years on an album is I can say there's nothing I would change on any of the albums. (CNN, Dec. 2008)
Question: How would you define friendship? Enya: Nicky and Roma. Q: How would you describe yourself? Enya: How should I... Strong, straight and honest. Q: Are you a happy person? Enya: Yes, I am. (SAT1, Nov, 2005)

Charitable causes

Temple Street Children's Hospital, Dublin and the New York City Uniformed Firefighters Association's Widows and Children Fund are just two of the charities which have benefited from her generosity.

Dedicated songs

Smaointe is dedicated to Enya's maternal grandparents and Na Laetha Geal M'Óige to her own parents, "In honour of my father and mother". The Amarantine album is dedicated to the memory of Tony McAuley, producer of The Celts BBC series. Journey Of The Angels is dedicated to Tim Royes and My! My! Time Flies! is dedicated to the late Jimmy Faulkner.

Languages used in her songs

Enya sings in Gaelic (her native tongue), English, Latin, Spanish, Japanese, Welsh, French, as well as Quenya and Sindarin, two languages invented by J.R.R. Tolkien, and a fictional language called Loxian.
  • Irish Gaelic: "March of the Celts", "The Celts", "Aldebaran", "Deireadh An Tuath", "Triad (St. Patrick)", "Storms In Africa", "The Longships", "Na Laetha Geal M'Óige", "Oiche Chiun", "Ebudae", "Book of Days", "Smaointe", "Athair Ar Neamh", "'S Fagaim Mo Bhaile", "As Baile", "Deora Ar Mo Chroí"
  • French: part of "Only If"
  • Japanese: "Sumiregusa"
  • Latin: "Cursum Perficio", "Afer Ventus", "Pax Deorum", "Tempus Vernum", "Adeste, Fideles"
  • Spanish: "La Sonadora"
  • Welsh: "Dan y Dwr"
  • Sindarin: "Aníron"
  • Quenya: part of "May It Be"
  • Loxian: "Less Than A Pearl", "The River Sings", "Water Shows The Hidden Heart"