Like the misty, ethereal music that she’s made her global calling card, Grammy-winning singer and instrumentalist Enya keeps herself cloaked in an aura of mystery. The reclusive artist let nearly five years elapse between her last album, Memory of Trees,and her latest, the splendorous A Day Without Rain. So it was an extra-special pleasure when the Celtic chanteuse granted Barnes & this exclusive interview. Enya addresses the inner meanings and methodologies behind her latest runaway hit.

Barnes & Water has been a major theme in your music (“A Day Without Rain, “Orinoco Flow,” “Watermark”). To what degree do you consciously integrate it into your work, and what is its significance to you?

Enya: 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. The ocean is a central image. It is the symbolism of a great journey, which is the way I would describe this album.

A Day Without Rain is probably the most positive of all the albums in the sense that even reminiscences are looked upon lovingly rather than with only sadness, that you are able to enjoy life, that you are able to meet the day and not be afraid, but know where you are in it. Hence, the reference to the ocean and water as being one of separation has now become one that is less painful. Now is the time to see the beauty of life — in all its seasons.

B& Is there any song on the new album that has special personal meaning, such as “Fallen Embers,” perhaps?

Enya: Actually, “Fallen Embers” is my favorite track on this album. After I had written this piece, [lyricist] Roma [Ryan] came to me to me with the lyrics, and I remember thinking as I read the words that this was exactly how I was feeling when I had written the melody. I find this track the most moving of all, and it was certainly the most emotional track for me to sing. I think a lot of people can relate personally to “Fallen Embers.”

B& What is your songwriting process like? Do you have a melody or an arrangement ready to go before you enter the studio? What do your longtime producer Nicky Ryan and lyricist Roma Ryan bring to the shaping of the music?

Enya: I prefer to wait until I go into the studio before I begin composing. This environment gives me the chance to focus on the music without outside distractions. It means there is an uninterrupted flow, and I can give myself wholly to the music, and it’s much better creatively for me. Many things inspire me when I am composing. It will usually tend to come from thoughts I have on special moments in my life, from memories, from my childhood, from my family and from people I know, from the landscapes of my native Gaothdobhair. When I have the basic melody, Nicky will come in and the two of us will work on arrangements. Roma prefers to wait until the arrangements have somewhat “settled” and taken shape. As with anything creative, change is inevitable. Once Nicky and I have decided on the melody line and have a reasonable arrangement down, then Roma begins writing.

B& You sing all vocal parts and play all instruments yourself on A Day Without Rain, apart from the credit given to the Wired Strings. Do you ever consider using other musicians on your recordings?

Enya: I prefer to record everything myself. However, I have had occasion when I wanted to use musicians to capture the dynamics of a particular instrument, such as the Uilleann pipes. Nicky had wanted to add to the strings I had already recorded on one of the tracks, hence Wired Strings. They are four musicians who played the same strings that I did, but they are used more for textural purposes.

B& Who is Flora in “Flora’s Secret”?

Enya: This song tells two stories — one of lovers lying in the long grass on a peaceful, sunny day. The girl’s name is Flora. It also tells of “Flora” — the flowers they are surrounded by. The song was inspired by the various legends given to flowers. For example — the “one the moon loves” is Endymion. He was the beloved of Seline, the moon, who made Endymion sleep eternally so she could be with him each night. Endymion is the bluebell. And, of course, Flora is the goddess of flowers.

B& You generally record your own songs — so the haunting version of Balfe’s “Marble Halls” really stands out. Are there any other operatic pieces that you would like to record?

Enya: At the moment, no. I have no plans for recording any other.

B& Who are your greatest musical influences?

Enya: I don’t have musical influences as such, but I tend to listen to the classical composers: Rachmaninov, Satie.

B& Do you consider yourself a spiritual or religious person, and if so, what would be your core belief?

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.

Barnes & Noble: 19 Dec 2000