If you aren’t hip to Big Freedia yet, you need to fix that ASAP. The “Queen Diva” is widely known and credited for bringing bounce music out of the shadows of post-Katrina New Orleans (or NOLA) and into the national spotlight. From high profile music festivals like South by Southwest to cramped, sweaty bars in Brooklyn, Freedia has been spreading the gospel of bounce for years, and gaining new ass shaking disciples at pretty much every stop along the way.
Fresh off a plane from Brazil and just two days out from her show at Vinyl Music Hall, the IN caught up with Freedia and talked about Memorial Day parties, reality TV, NOLA music and, of course, ass shaking.
IN: You’re coming to Pensacola just in time to help kick-off our annual Memorial Day Weekend festivities. Have you ever been here for the party weekend?
Freedia: Not for Memorial Day, but I have been to Pensacola before. It’s been a while though.
IN: Do you think you’ll stay in town and check out the scene—maybe get into a little beach action on Saturday? Or one of the big circuit parties?
Freedia: That’s the plan—to stay the weekend, check it out and just do what I do.
IN: How would define bounce music to somebody who is completely in the dark?
Freedia: It’s up-tempo, with a lot of call and response. It’s definitely a unique NOLA cultural thing and I’m looking forward to bringing that New Orleans party to Florida this weekend.
IN: Do you think making your booty bounce is a skill that can be learned or just something you’re born with?
Freedia: Everybody can learn it. I always say, it takes practice and if you practice enough, practice will make perfect. If you really want to learn, I teach classes. Everybody has an ass and everybody can shake it if they want to.
IN: I was just reading an article about some things New Orleans was the first city to have, and it’s a pretty amazing list—opera, movie theaters, pharmacists and, of course, jazz. When do you think they’ll add bounce music to that illustrious list?
Freedia: It’s coming to that point now. We’ve got to keep on working at it, but it’s getting there. I’ve got a reality show coming out, so that’s one more thing I’m doing to help bring bounce to the world.
IN: Can you tell us anything about the reality show yet?
Freedia: Absolutely. It will be debuting on FUSE TV in the next couple of months. They’ve been on the road with me off and on for over six months. They were with me in Brazil—that was one of the last things they shot.
IN: You aren’t a stranger to TV. Can you tell us about the episode of HBO’s “Treme” you appeared on?
Freedia: It was shot during the day at The Duck Off. They hired all these extras and gave everybody cocktails. Once the music started it didn’t really matter what time it was, it turned into a real party.
IN: There’s good music in pretty much every nook and cranny of your hometown. Who are your favorite New Orleans’ artists (to listen to and/or work with)?
Freedia: Wow—there are so many. Frank Ocean. Galactic—who I love and work with all the time. Also a lot of the brass bands and musicians—like Hot 8 and Young Fellas. And of course, bounce artists like Katey Red and D.J. Jubille.
IN: Part of your name comes from a club that your mom used to own—Diva’s. Is that still around?
Freedia: No, that stopped a while back. That club is no longer around.
IN: When I started hearing buzz about Booty’s Street Food, I honestly thought you were pulling a Kermit Ruffins and opening up your own spot. I was wrong on that, but you did get to put a little Freedia spin on their bathroom—how did that happen?
Freedia: We actually shot there for the reality show—I mean what’s better than a place called Booty’s when you’re doing a show on Big Freedia? They learned I was interior decorator so they asked me to do decorate their bathroom—which is a thing they do there in rotation with artists. Of course, my theme was bootys at Booty’s. They loved it.
IN: How much of the art was done by you and how much of it was fan submissions?
Freedia: There were a few fan submissions, but it was mostly done by me.
IN: Speaking of interior design, now that you’ve officially blown up and are playing shows all over of the globe, do you still have time to devote to your day job?
Freedia: I’m pretty much full-time on the road now. But every time I’m home if there’s a job knocking on the door, I’m working.
IN: You decorated Ray Nagin’s office, right? What was that like?
Freedia: I did. Pretty much the entire time he was in office, I did work for him. It was amazing—I made so many connections that I wouldn’t have made any other way, you know?
IN: A lot of our readers got introduced to you at Hangout Fest last year and fell in love, so you’re going have some repeat customers Friday night. Can they expect anything different from a Freedia club show? That Hangout set was pretty early in the morning, especially for bouncing.
Freedia: I remember Hangout—that festival was awesome. I feel like Friday night more people will be drunk and more asses will revealed.
IN: At Hangout we couldn’t find your stuff at the merch table all weekend and you know everybody wanted those “100% Ass Certified” shorts after seeing the show. Are they going to be available at this show?
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, May 24
WHERE: Vinyl Music Hall, 2 S. Palafox
DETAILS: vinylmusichall.com or bigfreedia.com