Eithne was born in Gweedore, County Donegal, in Ireland in 1961 to a musical family, the fourth youngest of nine children. Her grandparents were in a band that played throughout Ireland, her father was the leader of the Slieve Foy Band before opening a pub, and her mother played in a dance band and later taught music at the Gweedore Comprehensive School. Eithne has four brothers and four sisters, several of whom formed the band An Clann As Dobhair in 1968. They renamed the band Clannad in the 1970s.
In 1980, Eithne joined Clannad, the band composed of her siblings Máire, Pól, and Ciarán and twin uncles Noel and Padraig Duggan. Eithne played the keyboard and provided backing vocals on their albums Crann Ãšll (1980) and Fuaim (1982). In 1982, shortly before Clannad became famous for "Theme From Harry's Game", producer and manager Nicky Ryan left the group and Eithne joined him to start her own solo career.
Eithne, working with Nicky and his wife Roma, recorded two solo instrumental songs called "An Ghaoth Ã“n Ghrian" ("The Solar Wind") and "Miss Clare Remembers" that were released on the 1984 album Touch Travel. Eithne was first credited as Enya for writing some of the music for the 1984 movie The Frog Prince which was released on a soundtrack album of the same title. Another early appearance on record followed in 1987, where Enya provided spoken (not sung) vocals on SinÃ©ad O'Connor's debut album, The Lion And The Cobra. The title of the album is a partial English translation of Enya's Gaelic reading of Psalms 91:11-13 on the song "Never Get Old."
Enya was contracted to provide music for the soundtrack of the 1986 television documentary The Celts. The music she produced was featured on her first solo album, Enya (1987), but it attracted little attention at the time. The song "Boadicea" from this album would later be sampled by The Fugees (1996), causing a brief stir because the group neither sought permission from Enya nor gave her credit initially, and by Mario Winans, who did give her credit. (Ironically the Winans track, "I Don't Wanna Know," which features a rap by P. Diddy and is officially credited to all three artists, became Enya's highest charting single in the US, when it peaked at #2 on the Hot 100 in 2004.)
Enya achieved a breakthrough in her career in 1988 with the album Watermark, which featured the hit song "Orinoco Flow" (sometimes known as "Sail Away".) "Orinoco Flow" topped the charts in the United Kingdom, and the album sold eight million copies. Three years later, she followed with another hit album, Shepherd Moons, which sold ten million copies and earned Enya her first Grammy Award. The songs "On Your Shore" and "Exile" (from Watermark) and "Epona" (from The Celts) were featured strongly in the 1991 film L.A. Story. "Epona" was also featured on the soundtrack to the Robin Williams film Toys, while the 1990 film Green Card made use of her Watermark track, "Exile."
Despite winning Grammys for "Best New Age Album", Enya does not personally classify her music as belonging to that genre. Four years later, she released the Grammy-winning The Memory of Trees (1995).
In 1997, Enya released her greatest hits collection, Paint The Sky With Stars: The Best of Enya, which featured two new songs. She was offered the chance to compose the score for James Cameron's 1997 film Titanic, but she declined. Cameron subsequently asked composer James Horner to adapt Enya's style for his score. The eventual choice of Norwegian vocalist Sissel resulted in work that some sources erroneously credited to Enya.
Following a five-year break, she released A Day Without Rain in 2000 featuring 37 minutes of new material (34 minutes on the US version). After the September 11, 2001 attacks, her song "Only Time" (from A Day Without Rain) was used as a backdrop in many radio and TV reports about the attacks. She initially frowned upon this use, especially when many bootlegged versions of "Only Time" mixed with sound effects from the attack began to appear. She agreed to release a special edition of the song with funds going to the families of victims. Many Enya fans, however, are resentful that her music has been linked with the attacks; an example of this occurred on a 2002 appearance on CNN's Larry King Live when images of battle in Afghanistan were shown on screen as she performed "May It Be", a song with no war connection. This sparked some complaints within Enya's fan community.
Enya is self-admittedly a slow worker when it comes to composing music. As a result, fans have had to wait as long as five years between albums. In 2004, Enya was reputedly working on her next album, but no release date had been set. In September 2004, a new song, set to words from a Japanese poem and called "Sumiregusa" ("Wild Violet") was unveiled in Japan as part of an advertising campaign for Panasonic. In announcing the new recording, Warner Music Japan stated that Enya's next album was scheduled for release (in Japan at least) in mid-November. After a brief flurry of excitement among fans, Enya issued a press release on her official Web site on 19 September stating that this was a mistake and no new album was immediately forthcoming.
On November, 2005 a new album, entitled Amarantine, was released.
Enya is a very private person who tries to keep her personal life apart from her musical career, even by expending an estimated â‚¬250,000 on security measures for her home, Manderley Castle in south Dublin. In spite of this, on September 29 and October 3, 2005, there were two separate security breaches at Enya's home. According to many rumours, she lives there alone. However, this impression is exaggerated. She says she leads a normal life, invites over friends, listens to classical music and travels often.
As of 2006, Enya remains single.