The singer-songwriter on living in a castle, her first album in seven years and her dual regard for English and Loxian
Enya was born Eithne Ní Bhraonáin in Gweedore, County Donegal, Ireland in 1961, and began her career as a member of the family band Clannad. Her breakthrough album, Watermark, came out in 1988 and featured the No 1 hit Orinoco Flow. Enya’s eighth album, Dark Sky Island, is released on Aigle/Warners on Friday.
Orinoco Flow was No 1 for three weeks in 1988. Do people sing it to you in the street?
Yes, people say “sail away” to me or whistle bits of it back to me. I think it’s wonderful – I never tire of it.
Seven years have passed between your last album, And Winter Came…, and Dark Sky Island. Where did the time go?
After the Christmas-themed album, I didn’t know what to do next. I realised it was time to take a break. During that period I bought a house in the south of France and spent time doing the interior decorating. It took until the spring of 2012 before I felt like I wanted to get back into the studio. It was a lovely feeling to think that there were melodies and songs waiting to be written.
You’ve said that it takes months for you to put a song together. What’s the longest you’ve taken to put one together?
The first song I wrote for this album was Dark Sky Island. We worked on it for a month then left it for six months. I’m a very slow composer. I’m disciplined when it comes to doing my scales and vocal warm-ups because of my classical training, but I can be in the studio for a day, a week, a month not having written anything.
Your creative partner Roma Ryan created a language, Loxian, for you to sing in. How did that come about?
I feel comfortable singing in a variety of languages. As well as Gaelic, Latin, Welsh and Japanese, I sang in Elvish for May It Be from The Lord of the Rings. Loxian came about when we were working on a song, The River Sings, from Amarantine . We had the lyrics but didn’t have the right language to sing it in. Roma said that she would invent one and I thought, great. To me, it’s irrelevant whether I’m using a fictional or real language to sing a song in. Two songs on the new album are in Loxian.
Your influence has been noted in the work of Grimes and Julia Holter. How does that make you feel?
If I’ve encouraged anyone that’s a positive thing, because the way I work is unique. Before I signed to Warners I was doing instrumental soundtrack work and it was my first experience with a solo album. I was excited but I was also wary. I was very clear to the label that there would be two- or three-year-long gaps between albums. Time is important to me. It’s important to stick with your process, and you shouldn’t lose sight of the music that’s inside yourself.
You famously live in a castle. What’s the best thing about that?
Easily the views. In the morning I open the shutters – you’ll note in the castle it’s shutters, not curtains – and I look out on to the Irish sea. It’s beautiful and very inspirational.
Priya Elan | The Guardian | 15 November 2015