Big Freedia has been a trailblazing LGBTQ figure in the music industry since she roared onto the scene with her first LP, “Queen Diva,” back in 2003. And she's primed to "bring some heat" Saturday with her headlining performance for SF Pride 2020's virtual celebration.
When it was announced Freedia would banner San Francisco Pride’s digital ceremony earlier this month, we thought we’d try to catch up with the Bounce music pioneer on all things the pandemic, her upcoming live-streamed performance, and any new projects in the works.
Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon, we had the opportunity to ring-up the New Orlean’s native and “Pipe That” singer to chat about all those aforementioned topics — including, amongst other subjects, her gospel brunches and love for Outside Lands.
And as it turns out, she’s also one of the most appreciative performers SFist has ever had the pleasure to interview; every time Freedia spoke of a career or lifestyle highlight, she was quick to follow it with an act of gratitude. (I, too, confessed my affinity for keeping gratitude journals over the phone while she was washing dishes inside her New Orlean’s home.)
Matt Charnock, SFist: How have you been doing since the pandemic began?
Big Freedia: It’s been challenging. My usual touring life has shifted to now staying pretty much inside, to that’s been hard. My team and I are so used to being on the road almost nonstop, so now that we’re all at home, it’s strange. But, you know, I’ve been trying to stay safe, and I make sure I take time to take care of my mental well-being, too. And I’m very grateful I’m in good health and have a roof over my head.
MC: Your live-streamed gospel brunches are, truly, blessings. How’re you liking them?
BF: Right? The live gospel brunches I do with help from my team are proving to be a great way for people to get a feeling of home wherever they are. We’re going to start doing them at [City Park in New Orleans] and bring people some good food in real life. But we’ll still be live streaming them, for sure. They’ve also become another way for us to make money and help support us through this time. We have a Patreon account that gives subscribers inside access to recipes and videos. That money goes to support all of us, from the dancers to other touring staff, to help us get through these times.
MC: Your newest EP, Louder, above all else, is an ode to being yourself and expressing that as loud as possible, am I right?
BF: Oh, yea, for sure! I really just started recording songs and the EP came together. I try to record something every week. I make tons of songs and when it's time to put out a project, I can look through them all to see which ones work together and which don’t. I knew I wanted to come louder and stronger this time around, and show something different. The production of this EP is a whole other level for me, and I made sure to push myself every time I wrote something or recorded a song for this EP.
MC: Being such a prolific worker, do you have other projects in the cannon?
BF: I’ve got a few in the works. Because we can’t really go on tour for Louder right now, I’ve got time to work on other things. I’ve got another Christmas album in the works [which will be a follow up to A Very Big Freedia Christmazz], another EP, and my first children’s album coming out when things get back to normal. So when I do go back on tour, there’s going to be no shortage of new music to play.
MC: How’re you keeping creative during the lockdown?
BF: There’s no shit to do! Cooking and writing new stuff are filling my days, and I’m so grateful I have the opportunities to pursue my dreams and make a living from them. With all that's going on, it’s at least a great time for people to do and make things they might not have had the time before. I know for myself, doing all these virtual performances and digital things have made me think outside the box, and I’ve learned so much.
MC: I know you’re a regular at Outside Lands… and I have yelled “yes, she’s the Queen Diva” during your past performances more times than I can remember. Do you have a particular memory or performance that really sticks out to you?
BF: I love Outside Lands so much, and I’m so grateful that they continue booking me year after year. I think I’m one of the most regular performers at the festival? (She is; I checked.) The crowds are just so wild and great, and they’re completely themselves and shaking their asses. It’s hard for me to think of just one memory... because every time I go I just have the best time.
MC: What can we expect from your headlining performance Saturday for SF Pride?
BF: I’ll bring some heat, you know it. I miss performing live for in-person audiences, but we all know right now it’s best to avoid large in-person events for a while. Performing in front of people gives me so much life and joy. It’s hard to feel the energy of someone behind a screen, but I’m giving this performance my all. We’ve got a few surprising things that we’re excited to do. It’ll be a great time, and I know those watching will appreciate it.
MC: Last but not least, I just want to say thank you so, so much for being unapologetically yourself. I know for a fact you’ve helped a lot of fans — which I consider myself one, no doubt — and others accept their queernesses and left-of-center idiosyncrasies.
BF: Thank you so much for saying that, it really means a lot to me. I just want to bring people joy and happiness with my music and performances, and to let people know they should celebrate who they are. And that’s exactly what Pride’s all about too, right? Also, you’ll have to send me a few places to get some good southern food next time I’m in town! (Previously in the conversion, she and I went on a somewhat lengthy tangent on the joys of classic comfort foods, and why there’s no better time than now to savor them.)
Big Freedia’s Louder EP, as well as most other entries in her discography, can be listened to on all popular streaming services — TIDAL, Spotify, Apple Music — and you learn more about the New Orleans veteran on bigfreedia.com, including how to get a copy of her 2015 memoir, Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva!; additional information on SF Pride’s online celebration and Freedia’s Saturday headlining performance can be found on sfpride.org/celebration
Photo: Courtesy of Big Freedia's team