Interview: Big Freedia

Big Freedia is the Queen Diva of New Orleans bounce. She has been bringing me personal joy for years as I have covered her live performances across the country at music festivals each summer. Every time I see her and her squad I have a smile on my face. Her latest album Louder is the perfect addition to your quarantine playlist.

Freedia has collaborated with some of the music industry’s biggest hitmakers including Beyonce, Drake and most recently Kesha. She has been spreading her love of all things New Orleans all over the world for years and she hasn’t let the coronavirus pandemic stop her from connecting with her fans. 

She has been going live on social media every week for a Sunday Gospel Brunch and a Friday Night Shakedown to raise money to benefit her touring crew. As I finished up editing this post this morning I watched the special Mother’s Day Sunday Brunch as Freedia made a New Orleans classic “Turn Up the Heat Sausage PoBoy” and did a beautiful tribute to her mother. Freedia has also recently added a “Whatcha Cookin Wednesday” livestream. 

Freedia is showing people how to cook traditional New Orleans favorites in these weekly sessions as she cooks live from her house. Personally, I love the honest no frills look at real life during this stay at home time narrated by her family and manager online. These sessions have brought me joy and for some strange reason a sense of relaxation every Sunday as I watch her cook and listen to the gospel music playing in the background. She gets my vote for an immediate series on Food Network! Fans can support Big Freedia and get access to her New Orleans style recipes by joining her Patreon.

She also recently participated in a collaboration with my childhood favorites New Kids on the Block, Boys to Men, Naughty by Nature and Jordin Sparks for a song called House Party with proceeds from the song going to No Kid Hungry. 

We were thrilled to catch up with Big Freedia at her home in New Orleans to discuss cooking, music, Mardi Gras, and the secret to a perfect bounce.

How have you been staying busy in quarantine?

Well for me it has been a lot of cooking at home, watching movies, going and sitting in my backyard, letting dogs out and playing with my dogs, and staying inside entertaining my fans. I have been doing the Gospel Brunch on Sundays. I have been doing the Friday Night Concert Series to support my crew. 

During the week, just trying to find creative things to post. I have a Big Freedia “Pipe That” challenge going on to keep the dancers and the dance world occupied. I am also posting different articles and things I have in my archive to help keep fans entertained right now.

I have attended your brunch every week and love it so much. I love your Booty Poppin’ Potatoes. You have inspired me to cook even though I am not a cook at all. Do you have a favorite recipe or favorite thing you like to cook?

My favorite thing would be cabbage and cornbread.

You cook a lot normally, even when we are not in quarantine when you are home. Who are your cooking influences?

Most definitely I love to cook and try to do it as much as possible. My biggest cooking influence was my Mom who taught me everything about how to cook. Some of the people I follow are people like Emeril Lagasse. I love the Snoop and Martha show. Sometimes I watch some of the cooking channels. I would watch with my Uncle when he was living. I really get inspiration from all the people I see and some of the places I visit. I always want to try different stuff. In my mind, it is like what can I do to flip a meal and make it my own and give its own twist. I am always thinking of creative stuff. I have always loved to eat since I was a kid and I think that’s where it comes from as well.

A lot of music festivals are combining cooking with celebrity chefs and musicians. Do you have a dream cooking collaboration?

I think I have fulfilled it with Emeril Lagasse when me and him cooked on Action Bronson show. I did my Booty Poppin’ Potatoes and he did some Frog Legs and a Banana Crème Pie. We ate down and had a great time.

I know you sang in the church choir growing up. How do you feel singing in the church choir at a young age prepared you for your career now?

It played a big part, being in the spotlight always performing in the choir and holding notes and going to different ranges in octaves, it helped me a whole lot to train my voice, to not be afraid to sing in front of an audience, and to travel the world and see things growing up. The choir has played a big part in my life, even before I switched over.

Did you have a favorite Mardi Gras moment this year?

Yes, being able to hang with my family. I hadn’t been able to hang with my family in about four years on the ground because I had always been on the float. Fat Tuesday was a great day for me. One of my cousins passed away not long after Mardi Gras so I was grateful to be able to hang with him and see him for the last time.

You have performed some of the most famous musicians, Beyonce, Lizzo, Kesha. Have you ever been starstruck?

Most definitely. For sure. Beyonce, that was a star-striking musician for sure. Drake. All of them. I have been starstruck with just about every musician I have worked with. When you become a musician, you don’t fan out or freak out as much as a normal fan would because you also have a professionalism you have to uphold and you don’t want them looking at you in a weird way. It is a strange balance you can’t freak out like you want. You have to freak out on your own. I freak out on my own when I’m not around them. I have fan moments all the time with all the musicians I come in contact with and meet. Before I was a musician, I was a fan for a lot of these people. I grew up watching and listening to them.

I love “Chasing Rainbows.” It was the first song I put on my Facebook page when we went into quarantine. I feel like it is a very uplifting song for the time to keep people positive. What was one of your memorable experiences working with Kesha on that song?

It was awesome. Kesha is just an amazing artist. She is dope all around the board. When we started doing our project together, it was a fun process and we knew it would be special for the world. I was very happy and pleased to do both of my projects with Kesha.

Do you have any items you can’t live without in quarantine?

My cigarettes and my flowers honey. Something to keep me sane in this house. 

You released your memoir, God Save the Queen Diva, a few years ago and it will be coming out on paperback later this summer. Was it emotional to write the book about your career?

Oh yes. Me and my publicist went riding through my old neighborhoods and going to my old church and talking to some of my old friends, digging in deep going back to my childhood. It was very emotional. Sometimes I laughed. Sometimes I cried. Sometimes I felt different emotions as we were writing the book. I definitely had some moments reflecting on my childhood with my Mom and all of that.

Have you thought of writing a second book?

Yes, I definitely will in the future.

When will we see you back on TV?

Hopefully soon after all this corona stuff is over. 

I love your show. It is always fun to see. It always reminds me of New Orleans, no matter where you are in the world you take New Orleans with you.

Oh yeah most definitely I tell people that all the time, I bring New Orleans with me and we have a New Orleans party.

One of my closest friends wanted to ask how to make New York more like New Orleans?

You just have to bring New Orleans with you and spread the love.

I know you travel a lot. You are always on the road performing. Do you have a favorite tour location or travel memory to talk about a specific location?

New York is one of my favorites outside of New Orleans. Brooklyn Bowl is one of my favorite spots. The food, the crowd is amazing. The venue is amazing. We have had great shows there, really powerful shows. The impact is amazing, always packed or sold out. New York is my second home outside of New Orleans. I think I have a lot of fun there. I have a lot of fun in LA. I have had some great experiences in different countries like Amsterdam and Berlin. Everywhere has its own unique touch and the fans are special in every place I go. Every experience becomes very special because you get to connect with fans all around the world.

What is your favorite track to perform on the new EP?

That’s hard. There are so many good ones. Between “Louder” and “Chasing Rainbows” though. I think “Chasing Rainbows” because the story is so deep. It reminds me of myself and what I went through and still going through. “Chasing Rainbows” is definitely my favorite right now.

For people who aren’t familiar with the song, can you tell people about the backstory. What is “Chasing Rainbows” about?

“Chasing Rainbows” is about love conquering over fear and hate. Throughout the song, growing up I had to fight for who I am and what I believe in. Standing up to people and the world and also able to see close people I love dearly who I have lost. My Mom being one of them, she was my idol. Everyday is something different you have to do something different to survive in the world. Survival is the prescription for all of that, just trying to get through to the next day. “Chasing Rainbows” kind of goes through all of that in everyday life situations.

What is the secret to a good Bounce?

A secret to a good Bounce is to practice at home in the mirror to see how your body moves, the way your ass moves, the way you twerk, and you can critique yourself in the mirror. You want to practice on a full-length mirror at home and have your little booty shirts on and have fun, a judgement free zone.

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