With orange hair, a voice made for balladry, and an affinity for profanity, Begonia, a.okay.a. Alexa Dirks, is frank concerning the occasions we reside in. At 35, she is definitely millennial, however once I spoke to her one morning this February, I used to be satisfied she was a Gen Z-er: she’s sincere, anxiety-ridden however engaged on it, and exuberant. She, too, went to remedy throughout quarantine, and, based on her songs, did one thing behind a automobile. She reads the writing on the wall, permitting happenstance to take which means, like the celebrities or a random web page from a guide. Individuals of various generations typically really feel as if they reside in a special period, however I really feel positive that Begonia and I’ve shared a world.
In her new album Powder Blue, her pop-R&B-gospel affinities shine, in addition to some experimentation (assume artpop autotune). The stereotype of pop-adjacent genres, that they are typically narrowly targeted on emotion disembodied from contemporaneity, may linger in about half the songs, however the upside is that they supply a completely listenable catchiness. Alexa herself is unambiguous, and it exhibits in a few of her lyrics: “Was it contextual, or am I bisexual?” If I needed to guess, I’d classify her as an Aries.
Nostalgia and issues of the center are emotional classes she ruminates over at size in Powder Blue and in actual life. However she additionally makes jokes about Amazon Alexa and turning off her Google Alerts. In our dialog, she tells me concerning the album, herself, nervousness, faith, love, and extra.
These conversations have been edited for readability.
What sort of music did you develop up with?
I used to be rising up with Spice Women, Future’s Little one. I used to be additionally rising up with essentially the most misogynistic fucking films, like American Pie, the place ladies are there to shake their booties round. Like Women Gone Wild, that MTV period. That period of aggro white dudes on the forefront of popular culture.
I additionally grew up listening to a lot Christian music. Amy Grant was my woman. Then I veered into the pop music sphere and my idol was Fiona Apple (angsty).
What impressed this album?
I grew up actually non secular, like fairly evangelical of my very own volition. I simply went that means, and had a powerful concern of the Lord in me, and that impacted me in an enormous means. Then, once I began touring, once I was 19 or 20, my mind utterly modified. I simply modified my thoughts on the world. I’ve been in a continuing state of movement since then, so my mind was altering, however I wasn’t essentially sitting right down to course of it appropriately. So it was a whole lot of processing issues that I’d not have thought of had the pandemic not hit.
What takeaways out of your first album did you carry or not carry into this one?
The primary one, I used to be a whole freak on a leash and was so anxious about the whole lot, each resolution. Like, am I sending the fitting e mail on the proper time of day to make the right influence? I used to be shedding sleep over spelling errors. My consideration to element was not serving me, and I had no reference level as a result of I’d by no means achieved it earlier than. And with this one, I had a reference level for a few of that stuff. So I’m nonetheless a freak, there’s nonetheless a hamster carnival in my mind from the second I wake up to date I’m going to mattress, however I’m extra acquainted with the hamsters now.
And I’m a singer, a musician, an artist, and it defines me in so some ways. It’s actually exhausting to separate my life from my profession, like, that is the whole lot. It could actually fuck you up. I used to be simply, daily, wanting within the mirror being like, it’s not going to fuck you up this time, you let it do this final time, and I didn’t take pleasure in myself, I burnt out so shortly. I’m prioritizing relaxation in a brand new means. I wish to expertise pleasure, I wish to be current. I don’t wish to be good issues and discovering the holes, as a result of that’s what I used to do.
The album feels centered across the expertise of being a girl. Do you wish to say extra, if that was an intent?
I’ve all the time identified, particularly once I was extra within the Evangelical world, that there was a whole lot of methods of being fascinating as a girl, of your lot in life as a girl, the trajectory of what I assumed my life could be as a girl. Which was getting married at 21 and having infants and caring for the house. And all that cliché stuff, for me, simply saved not occurring because the years glided by. So like, then what? Who am I then, what am I as a girl? I broke freed from these beliefs, and it’s not an enormous deal, however I believe they’re nonetheless working via in my thoughts and dealing via my sexuality. I do know I’m not straight, however I’m not conclusive about that both. My pronouns are she/her, I’d introduce myself as a girl, however I’m not sitting right here considering I’m the embodiment of what it means to be female. But additionally, what the fuck does that even imply?
The place does the title Begonia come from?
My associate on the time was studying this old-school plant guide, and there was a plant with a gorgeous portrait picture in it referred to as the Rex begonia, and all my good associates at residence name me Rex. It was like one thing was calling me to this plant. Discovering a undertaking title can typically really feel actually not possible. As soon as you discover one thing that feels good, you simply decide to it and also you don’t assume twice about it, you don’t look again.
Some songs within the album had very tapered beginnings, like “Chasing Each Dawn” and “Bleeding Coronary heart.” Are you able to inform me about that alternative?
For “Chasing Each Dawn,” the acapella starting was not the unique intent. The track was written, and I used to be, like, ugh, that simply doesn’t really feel proper, the opening. And I used to be strolling exterior, at evening in silence, actually what the lyrics say. I used to be like, I wish to do this once more. I needed a tender, ushering into the album, and it simply felt applicable. For one thing like “Bleeding Coronary heart,” it was the identical factor, the place the track simply minimize proper in, and we had been like, we simply desire a little bit of softness, a little bit of ethereal high quality to the start earlier than it simply slams proper into the groove. It felt like that was what the track needed.
What’s your greatest purpose proper now as an artist?
For me, that is my life. I’m going to do that for the remainder of my life, God keen or whoever keen. I wish to maintain creating, to maintain having significant experiences. I would like to have the ability to present as much as any metropolis and know that persons are going to be at a present. However I’m going to be making artwork it doesn’t matter what. There isn’t one factor, like oh, I wish to play Madison Sq. Backyard. I imply that may be fucking cool. However I simply wish to do that so long as I can with my associates and maintain sight of who I’m and what’s vital to me, and continue to grow. Continuous development— that’s what I would like.
Story / JoAnn Zhang
Images / Calvin Lee Joseph
Make-up / Rachel Lynne Jones
Hair / Kitty Bernes
Set / Seth Woodyard
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