Local musician talks pre-pandemic memories, religious background, new music

By: Rachel Lynne Jones

Winnipeg singer Begonia and her partner, Seth Woodyard, sit on their couch clutching ceramic coffee mugs. It’s another late Saturday morning in lockdown.

Behind them is a metallic gold table skirt, decorated with pastel paper flowers. Woodyard, who is also Begonia’s art director, made the piece as an accent for her last online performance.

“We’re the kind of people that if there’s going to be a Christmas tree put up, yeah it’ll be there until springtime,” said Begonia.

They refer to their home as a “museum of projects.” It’s filled with pre-pandemic memories, like a three-foot floral headpiece attached to a long red wig made by Begonia’s hair stylist, Kitty Bernes. Outside in the backyard, the spinning wheel from her “Hanging On A Line” music video and the ribbon-adorned maypole from her “Fear” music video are on display.

“It became difficult for me to pretend that I was super happy,” Begonia said while reflecting on the first lockdown. She said some brief projects from the summer gave her temporary solace.

“When we were doing [our most recent] video shoot, I’m sitting in the back of this truck that Seth turned into a bedroom, and I just looked up and it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just missed being creative,” she said. 

Begonia is now working on her new album during the lockdown. She said instead of writing about her emotions surrounding the pandemic, she’s writing music that feels “hookier” and more “poppy” than her previous work.

“[It’s a] bit more like an escape,” she said. “Let’s pretend that we’re somewhere else for a minute—and that surprised me that some of that was coming out of me.”

She also said quarantine has given her more time to think about her religious upbringing.

“I grew up in the church. I was super Christian growing up. I’ve had all this time at home and I find myself thinking about that a lot,” said Begonia.

She said she hadn’t thought of this aspect of her life since she began touring at 19; she created her busy schedule to avoid her own emotions. 

Begonia was a camp counsellor at a Christian summer camp. Although her time there was a positive experience, she said she feels bad that she guided others in a religious direction. 

“Someone that grew up being like, ‘My camp counsellor told me that this was the way to be and now she’s off doing this, so I’m confused,’ I feel just kind of like responsible in some ways,” she said.

Begonia and Woodyard both said time at home allows them to reflect on their Christian upbringings. They recognize the colonial structure their churches were built on.

“I also just want to emphasize like, yes it’s been difficult, but I recognize our immense privilege in this situation — that is not lost on me,” said Begonia.

Both her and Woodyard said lockdown has brought unpredictable emotions.

“It’s navigating that balance because I don’t think that it’s good to just present a front of optimism and positivity when that’s just a bold-faced lie,” added Woodyard.

Begonia was supposed to begin recording her new album in January, but said she is at peace with whatever timeline she’s given. She now has more time to work on her new music.