U2 are widely recognized as being Ireland’s most renowned and successful musical exports, but always nipping at their heels is their Dublin neighbor Enya, the ethereal chanteuse who turned 50 years old on May 17.
Enya’s new age, heavenly music has been a global smash for more than 20 years, and she’s sold more than 75 million albums, making her one of Ireland’s richest performers. Her music is a huge hit in the U.S., of course – one-third of her sales have come from here, and her soothing song, “Only Time,” became a kind of post-9/11 healing anthem. (She recorded a special version of the tune, and donated all of the proceeds to the families of the victims.)
The Grammy Award winner, though, is known for being highly allergic to red carpets, promotional events and any other type of activity that would bring her into regular contact with the public. Born in Donegal and living in a multi-million dollar refurbished castle in the posh Dublin suburb of Killiney, not far from where Bono and his family reside, very little is known about Enya, who used to be part of her family’s Irish traditional band, Clannad, before striking gold as a solo artist.
But don’t take Enya’s reticence as a sign of oddness, says her long-time manager Nicky Ryan, who gave a rare interview last weekend to the Irish Independent.
"Enya is not reclusive," he says. "She is private -- and there's a difference. She doesn't hide herself away, she gets out and about but isn't interested in being in the spotlight. She's always been a very private person."
Indeed. She flies under the radar to such an extent that well-heeled locals have never seen her in the town.
"I've lived in Dalkey for 17 years and I've never set eyes on her," one told the paper. "The gate is never, ever open. You’d see Bono and his wife a lot, but Enya is a bit of a mystery.”
In fairness Enya – who is single as far as anyone knows – had issues with stalkers a while back, so it’s understandable that she wants to stay low key. But her profile is set to rise again before the close of the year, as Ryan says she’s working on a new album and will likely tour to support it. She’ll be backed by a full orchestra, Ryan adds, and part of her work will be recorded in the Abbey Road studios in London made famous by the Beatles.
"We have considered touring before, but we didn't make the time. Working with musicians in Abbey Road is with a view to bringing people on the road. There would be a classical feel to the performances with Enya playing beautiful venues in front of an orchestra,” Ryan said, adding that he’s hopeful that one of Enya’s stops would be at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
In the meantime, though, don’t expect to hear too much from the superstar. But that’s not a bad thing, Ryan says.
"She's just a normal person -- like you or me, and she has normal interests. Take my word for it."
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