Local music icon Alexa Dirks, known onstage as Begonia, is between filming music videos and a busy tour schedule. She also released her first full-length album, Fear, Sept. 13.
Dirks, who spent her childhood singing in choirs, musicals and bands, said that music “was always a part of me whether I realized that that’s what it was or not.”
She grew as a creator over the past decade, touring regularly, playing in bar bands and joining Juno-winning group Chic Gamine before branching off solo.
Dirks decided to adopt a creative stage name for her new solo project because she felt that it “was something that was going to take on a bit more of a hyperbolic version of my personality, so I wanted something a bit different.”
She chose the name Begonia after the Rex begonia when her boyfriend was looking through a book on plants.
“All of my friends called me Rex,” she said.
After researching the plant, Dirks realized she shared more similarities with it beyond nomenclature.
“Begonia I felt like resonated with me because there are so many different species of the begonia plant, some are really rough around the edges and others are really delicate and beautiful and I felt like that was my personality,” she said.
Dirks’s first single as Begonia, “Juniper,” reached number one on CBC Radio 2’s Top 20, followed by the release of her critically acclaimed solo EP Lady in Mind in 2017.
Dirks sings a wide spectrum of deep bluesy emotionally-driven ballads with ’90s synth, R&B and ’70s folk influences.
She said she is influenced by “raw emotion of any kind.”
“I’m influenced by my surroundings and my life experience,” she said.
“I’m pretty literal with my songwriting.”
Her lyrics cover an equally wide emotional spectrum.
“Sometimes I am very sad and dark, and other times I am very happy and celebratory in my life,” she said.
“I can’t really feel the full emotion of one without feeling the full emotion of the other.”
Dirks’s upcoming album is expected to showcase her full vocal and thematic range.
She said creating Fear was “a long and beautiful and hard process.”
Fear was born out of a collaborative writing session with Dirks’s close-knit production team, which includes Matt Schellenberg (Royal Canoe) and Matt Peters (Royal Canoe), along with Marcus Paquin (The National, Arcade Fire, Local Natives).
“We had a bit of a writing retreat at Marcus’s studio in Montreal and we wrote four songs and then we decided we had a record on our hands,” she said.
The more work the group did, the more the album came together organically.
“It’s very familial,” Dirks said of her production team.
“If you don’t surround yourself with people that you care about and that care about you and have your best interests at heart and that you feel like understand you, [the process] can be even harder.”
Fear can be found on streaming and download platforms. Links and tour dates can be found at hellobegonia.com.