I dialed the Manitoba 204 area code number and quickly Begonia, personally known as Alexa Dirks, was on the other end. It was a dream come true. I had first heard of Begonia after her performance with Danny Michel at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and then was privileged to see her steal the show at this year’s Supercrawl in Hamilton, and after watching her perform, I couldn’t wait for the artist, performer, songwriter, vocalist extraordinaire and all around wild flower to return again to our backyard, St. Catharines, the Garden City.
Performing in Chic Gamine, a Juno winning folk band that formed in 2007, Dirks learned many of the firsts to being a successful artist, from touring, networking and learning how to gradually build a following. The group harmoniously split and went their separate ways in 2015, and in 2016 the first appearance of Begonia emerged.
“[The name came] from my connection to plant life and flowers – even though I can’t keep any of them alive in my home,” said the bold singer. “I have always really liked Begonias because they come in all different colours, sizes and species, they’re resilient and I just felt like they spoke to me.”
With a great foundation in place, Begonia “barreled through the first steps”, naturally shaping and progressing towards her RnB/synth-pop sound that can be found on her 2019 debut album Fear. Prior to Fear, Begonia released her first solo EP, Lady in Mind, which was well received and saw Begonia listed on NPR’s 10 Artists You Need To Know in 2017, due to her extraordinary voice, her commanding stage presence and self deprecating banter that often lead to both vulnerable and hilarious performances.
“With Lady in Mind, I didn’t think too much. We just started by recording what I had written and learned along the way,” said Begonia. “With Fear, it just kind of happened naturally. I love the collaborative process, and I have an awesome team.”
Her team for the record, consisted of Matt Schellenberg (Royal Canoe) and Matt Peters (Royal Canoe) along with Marcus Paquin (The National, Arcade Fire, Local Natives), and while it may take a garden to bring a project life, it wasn’t a walk in the park.
“I really pushed the boundaries and surprised myself, seeing what I could do. The writing and recording process was really painful, but when I perform, I just put it all out there, and that’s a real healing moment for me,” she divulged.
For those that have had the pleasure of seeing Begonia, you know that she’s not understating her performances. Raw, emotional and relatable, Begonia truly does leave it all on the table, hoping that she can offer a sense of healing to others through her show-stopping songs.
On tracks like “Beats” (the oldest track and my personal favorite next to “Living on the Ceiling”) Begonia delves into self reflection “You said that no one could hurt you / But I do it all the time”, on others she processes through her heartbreak and otherwise messy life prior to the release of the record. Admittedly, Begonia also revealed that anxiety ran high in the beginning stages, ultimately leading her to her flagship track and concept behind the record Fear.
“During the making of the record, I had a little self doubt as to what I was doing. I just picked up the microphone and sang the melodies from my journal scribbles and in channeling those fears, Fear was born,” Begonia recalled.
“With this record, I just want to share that healing and help others to find their own feeling. I always just wanted each person who listened to these songs to take away an individual feeling of what it meant to them.”
As if her genuine talent wasn’t enough to get Begonia noticed, the artist took a leap of faith, investing into herself whole-heartedly and launched Fear on her own label, Rex Baby Records. The September 2019 record came out with a bang. “Hanging On a Line” a track about ‘seriously falling in love in the club’ made it to #1 on CBC Music’s Top 20 and CBC Radio 3 and “Living At The Ceiling” debuted on Queen Sugar, a television show produced by Oprah Winfrey.
“It was just the right decision for me to release the record on my own. There are so many avenues for an artist to take, and there is no one right way anymore,” said Begonia. “But this was definitely the right decision for me.”
Coming off the experience of making a record that transformed her anxieties and fears into a stunning and balanced twelve song album, she was right to say, “You just have to take care of yourself.”
Thank you for sharing your beauty Begonia, the world is ready to watch you grow.