Whatever Happened To Enya?

The name Eithne Ní Bhraonáin is one you might not be familiar with, but if you are also unfamiliar with the Anglicized version of this famous person's name you must have not turned on a radio in the last thirty years. Enya is one of the most well-known and enigmatic singers of modern times and has been a household name since her breakthrough solo album, Watermark, was released in 1988. It has since sold over 10 million copies worldwide.

Watermark was just the beginning of Enya's success. The Irish singer has won four Grammy Awards, and was nominated for five more. In spite of her fame, however, most people don't know very much about the musician as she keeps a notoriously low profile, living under the radar as much as a world-famous musician possibly can. Since she's rarely in the news, many people have likely assumed that Enya has retired, but has she? What, exactly, has Enya been up to? It's time to check in with the reclusive singer.

One of the richest musicians in the U.K. and Ireland

It's been a few years since Enya has released an album, but her vast fortune means that she could comfortably live for the rest of her life without churning out another hit. Enya has been so successful that she is one of the U.K. and Ireland's wealthiest musicians, worth more than one hundred million pounds. The Sunday Times (via Music Week) placed her at number 28 on a list of the U.K. and Ireland's richest musicians in 2018. That puts her ahead of Chris Martin (front man of the band Coldplay) and Ed Sheeran.

Even more impressive than her vast wealth is that it was earned through album sales alone. Enya doesn't go on tour, can take almost a decade between albums, and grants very few interviews, yet she has sold around 85 million records. Her astronomical success is so atypical in the music industry that it has been given its own name: Enya-nomics

Why is she so reclusive?

Enya hardly ever gives interviews and makes few public appearances. Her mysteriousness has only fueled the public's fascination with her. Why is someone so famous so reclusive? Well, for starters, she doesn't actually consider herself to be a recluse. "The media put tags on people," she told Independent in 2015. "With Oprah Winfrey, it's the weight issue. What is the spin they have on me? 'Oh, she's a recluse.'" Enya added that her absence from the spotlight is due to the fact that she's simply busy.

The artist has never sought to be in the public eye. "My private lifestyle bothers a lot of people," she told The Guardian back in 2000, adding: "I love the music to be known, but I'm not after fame for myself." You certainly have to admire Enya's commitment to her music. She seems determined to live on her own terms and not let her fame take over her life. 

Her fans know to give her space

Any true fan of Enya knows that she values her privacy. While she does get out and about, her fans know to give her space if they are ever lucky enough to spot her. In 2017, the singer told The Believer (via Literary Hub) that her fans understand her. "They'll ask for an autograph and they'll just leave," she said. "They are very understanding to the way that I like to live, and to the fact that I've always pushed the music, rather than myself, forward. I always say that fame and success are two different things."

Enya doesn't get as recognized as often as you might expect for someone so famous, perhaps because of the notoriously low profile she keeps. She said that people often tell her that she looks like Enya, however. "And then I feel it's not fair to say no, so then I will — my smile kind of gives it away," she said. "But that's something that I would get."

Even her family doesn't see much of her

The public might not know much about the singer's whereabouts, but surely Enya's family is keeping tabs on her, right? Not according to her uncle. "We don't see much of her," her uncle, Noel Duggan, told The Sun in 2016. "She lives like a queen. She is a recluse."

There are, of course, any number of reasons that Enya might not see her uncle, or other members of her family very much. That doesn't mean that she's totally estranged from all of her relatives, though. The Sun added that Enya is on good terms with other members of her family and enjoys spending a lot of time with her nieces and nephews. Enya also told Literary Hub that she goes shopping with her sister, so there's no reason to assume that Enya's desire for privacy means that she is completely antisocial.

She only checks her email once every few weeks

The paparazzi has a difficult time of getting a shot of Enya, and would also have a hard time e-mailing her. The singer doesn't just stay out of the public eye in real life, but also keeps a low profile on the internet. While celebrities often engage with their fans online, Enya is rather disconnected from social media. 

She has an official Twitter account, but she rarely posts anything and doesn't appear to have been active on the site since 2016. She's also been quiet on Facebook since early 2017, and while she has an Instagram account, it's super under the radar. So much so that it could easily be a fake account, if not for the fact that her official website links to it.

It's not just social media that Enya avoids. Even more traditional forms of online communication are avoided by the singer. Her e-mail is only checked every few weeks, and when she does check it, she does so quickly. "It feels so cold," she told BuzzFeed in 2015. "The energy is no good. I'd rather go for a walk."

She never planned on marriage or motherhood

Back in 2008, Enya spoke to The Telegraph about her plans for the future. "People would say to me, 'Do you want to settle down and have a family?' and I would say, 'If it's going to happen, it's going to happen,'" she said. "I didn't think, 'Oh My God! I'd better settle down and have a family'. Why should anyone make me feel this is what I should do? Why? Whatever path you go down, you should feel comfortable with it.'"

In the years that have passed since that interview, Enya hasn't changed her stance. She hasn't married nor had children, although she does wear a ring on her wedding ring finger. She seems happy with the choice she made, standing by the statement she gave The Guardian in 2000. "I wouldn't change anything I've done over the past few years," she said. "That I'm not married and don't have children has been my choice. I don't feel I've missed out in any way."

A 2013 Volvo ad put one of her early hits back on the charts

Enya is so talented that she doesn't even need to release a song in order to hit the charts. In 2013, it had been half a decade since her most recent release, 2008's And Winter Came. In spite of this, she made the Billboard Hot 100 for her song "Only Time." Making the feat more impressive was the fact that that particular song had been released more than a decade earlier on her album A Day Without Rain.

So how did an old song suddenly break into the top 100? Through a commercial. The song was featured in a Volvo ad starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. The ad, as of this writing, has racked up more than 90 million views on YouTube. It's a mark of just how alluring Enya's music is that she doesn't even need to release new music in order to remain beloved, let alone relevant.

She took a three year break before working on her last album to travel and re-energize

After 2008's And Winter Came, Enya didn't release another album for almost another decade. Dark Island Sky, her most recent album, came out in 2015. What took so long between albums and what was Enya up to in all of that time? Well, according to the singer herself, she simply needed some time to herself.

"I traveled," she told Literary Hub. "I bought a place in the South of France, did massive renovations on it. I have family in Australia, so traveling and catching up, and basically the time just flew. But I felt that I was reenergizing my creative side, you know, for the inspirations, for the music. That's what I felt: I needed to do that." She took three years off before starting work on Dark Island Sky. "I know it sounds like a long time, but to me, it felt like six months," she told BuzzFeed.

Her dad passed away

Enya made the news in 2016, but not for something happy. Her father, Leo Brennan, passed away that year. Enya was understandably devastated by the loss, although her public grieving was limited to an official statement on her Facebook page that read: "It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Enya's father, Mr Leo Brennan. Enya had the opportunity to be with her father during his last days. Leo died peacefully this morning at home, surrounded by his family. Our thoughts are with Enya at his time. Enya and her family request privacy during this time, as you will understand."

Like Enya, and several other of his children who are also musical, Brennan was a gifted musician. He played accordion, saxophone, and sang with the Slieve Foy Dance Band for much of his life.  While the loss no doubt came as a blow, Enya could at least be comforted in the knowledge that her father, who was 90 when he passed away, lived a long, full life.

Living next door to Bono

You can't really blame Enya for staying out of the spotlight, especially when she has such a nice home to hang out in. The singer purchased Ayesha Castle in Dublin back in 1997 – a structure with quite an interesting history. "I wasn't intending on buying the castle, but I was actually living in the same area, in an apartment, and I decided I wanted to invest in a bigger property," she told Literary Hub. "I could've walked to the castle, but it's so hidden you don't know that it exists. It's a small little road, Victoria Road, and the castle used to be called Victoria Castle, and it was built in 1840, and it was this wealthy landowner, Lord Warren, who lived on a big estate beside it; he built it hoping that Queen Victoria would visit."

Queen Victoria never did visit the castle, but there's another famous figure who is at least familiar with the sight of the castle. One of Enya's neighbors is fellow singer Bono, who she said she bumps into from time to time.   

She's attracted several stalkers

Enya, as we know, aims to live her life as privately as possible, but there is one frightening reason that might make her want to keep out of the public eye even more: the singer has attracted multiple stalkers throughout her career. In 1996, one stalker was thrown out of her parents' pub and stabbed himself in the neck. In 2005, another broke into her home, and Enya fled to a panic room. The man escaped before the police arrived.

In spite of such terrifying incidents, Enya chooses not to live her life in fear. "In the beginning, it was strange, but after a while, I saw the other side: a person who cannot deal with certain parts of life," she told BuzzFeed. "They're in a very unhappy place. It's not really their fault, especially if they associate something disturbing with a song. I had a choice to either deal with it and move on or experience all that negativity every time. So I moved on. It does not spook me. It's not really about me — it's just that I'm a fixation, and it could be anyone."

A species of fish was named after her

One surprising way that the singer made the news was when a new species of fish was named after her in 2017. Scientists from Oregon State University named the fish, which they found in the Orinoco River, leporinus enyae, which means 'beautiful little fish.' They were fans of Enya and often listened to her song, "Orinoco Flow," in the lab. "When the time came around for choosing names, it just felt right to name this new beautiful fish from the Orinoco after the artist who wrote that beautiful song," one of the scientists, Marcus Chatfield, said (via Irish Times).

This isn't the first time Enya has received an unusual namesake. In 1997, an asteroid that had been discovered in 1978 was dubbed 6433 Enya in honor of the singer. It's not many people who can say that they have not only left such a lasting impact not just on this earth, but also on the universe!

"I am a very slow composer"

Will Enya be releasing another album in the future? While she hasn't announced any plans, it's safe to say that she's quite likely working on something. The singer is known to take her time between releases and, while some performers might risk being forgotten by their fans while taking a hiatus, Enya's devotees are a loyal bunch.

"I am a very slow composer," she told Literary Hub. "Instead of only going to the studio when I have a song — I feel that wouldn't work for me — I find it's important to go to the studio to try and kind of live with all my inspirations for a while."

Enya added that, while she can be absorbed in the songwriting process, she also often leaves the studio for weeks at a time before returning to work. Hopefully, the fact that we haven't heard much from Enya lately means that she is working on her next album at the "lovely, slow pace" she prefers. One thing is for sure: her next album will be well worth the wait!