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Sail Away With These 10 Ethereal Facts About Enya, the Celtic Goddess of New Age Music

Did you know she lives in a castle?

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Enya is the rare musician who’s essentially a genre unto herself. Born Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin, the Irish songstress found surprising breakthrough success in the US from the late ’80s onward, as her singularly calming mix of Celtic tradition and new age, synth-driven sounds resonated with countless listeners, from kids in dance classes to stressed-out moms looking to unwind to music buffs compelled by her uniqueness.

Enya‘s hit songs like “Orinoco Flow” and “Only Time” are captivatingly expansive, spiritual soundscapes that feel like the musical equivalent of a meditation. Her music has always been far more cerebral and experimental than what typically tops the charts, which makes the fact that she’s sold over 80 million albums worldwide and earned the title of the bestselling Irish solo artist even more fascinating.

The musician’s last album, Dark Sky Island, came out in 2015, and she’s known for her reclusive, enigmatic nature. Even with her shadowy presence and lack of new music, she maintains a diverse fanbase, and she’s been cited as an influence by R&B divas and indie musicians alike and has even been sampled on a number of rap songs.

Here are 10 fascinating facts to help you get the know the mysterious and innovative artist a bit better.

1. Enya got her start in a family band

Born into a large Irish family in 1961, Enya was destined to follow a musical path. Members of her family formed a Celtic folk band, Clannad, in 1970, and she joined the group from 1980 to 1982. She ultimately decided she was more interested in having a solo career, and spent part of the decade composing music for films and TV. In 1987 she released her debut album, and soon enough she broke out as a popular artist in the US.

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Enya in 1985
Enya in 1985Independent News And Media/Getty

2. She has an eclectic array of influences

Enya’s music is characterized by lusciously layered vocals — all of which are her own. While Enya’s style is very different from classic pop, she said she was inspired by the dramatic “Wall of Sound” style producer Phil Spector created in the ’60s, and in another interview, she said that her 1991 song “Angeles” layered 500 tracks of her own voice. Some of her other influences include classical music, religious music and traditional Irish music.

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3. Enya was nominated for an Oscar

Enya has won four Grammy Awards for Best New Age Album. She was also nominated for an Oscar for her song “May It Be,” which was composed for the blockbuster 2001 fantasy film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. While it didn’t win, there’s no arguing that Enya’s songs pair perfectly with mystical worlds.

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Enya at the Oscars in 2002
Enya at the Oscars in 2002Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/Getty

4. One of her songs became particularly resonant in the wake of 9/11

One of Enya’s signature songs, “Only Time,” was released in 2000. In 2001, following the immense trauma of 9/11, the song gained a new resonance, as it frequently appeared in news footage as a means of providing comfort to a grieving nation, and Enya performed it on Larry King Live just months after the attack. She then donated all proceeds from the song to the International Association of Firefighters.

Enya onstage in 2001
Enya onstage in 2001Stephane Cardinale/Sygma via Getty

5. Enya has sung in an impressive variety of languages

In addition to singing in English and the Irish language she grew up speaking, Enya has also sung in Welsh, French, Latin and Japanese. She’s even sung in fictional languages like Loxian (a language invented by her producer’s wife) and Sindarin and Quenya (languages used in The Lord of the Rings).

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6. Enya has never toured

When you’re a popular artist, you go on tour and perform sold-out shows for your adoring fans, right? Not if you’re Enya! While she’s made appearances on various TV shows and awards shows, she’s never actually gone on tour. Because her music relies so heavily on studio experimentation and layered vocals, she’s long felt that the sound is impossible to replicate live.

Enya in 2000
Enya in 2000Todd Plitt/Getty

7. There’s a planet and a fish named after her

Enya’s music gets pretty spacey, and she reached a new level of the cosmos when a minor planet was named after her in 1991. In 2017, a new species of fish discovered in the Orinoco River drainage area was also named Enya, as an homage to her classic song “Orinoco Flow.”

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8. Enya lives in a castle

In 1997, Enya bought a castle in Ireland, and she’s lived there alone, as she’s never married or had children, ever since. It’s a fitting home for the queen of new age.

Enya in 2002
Enya in 2002New Line/Getty

9. She turned down working on Titanic

Director James Cameron wanted Enya to do the music for his 1997 film Titanic, but she turned him down because he wanted her to work with other musicians, which was not her preferred style. The movie, of course, went on to become one of the decade’s biggest hits.

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10. She’s hinted that there may be new music on the way

While Enya hasn’t released an album in almost 10 years, in 2023 she dropped a hint that she might make a comeback soon. When her compilation album A Box of Dreams was reissued, the liner notes featured the Irish phrase “Beidh muid ag teacht le chéile gan mhoile,” which means “We will meet again soon.”

Enya in 2017
Enya in 2017Dan MacMedan/WireImage/Getty
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