Big Freedia: Independent Venue Week Ambassador On Touring, Bounce & Queen Bey

Big Freedia, the New Orleans-based “Queen of Bounce,” is having a big year, not the least of which thanks to touring with Trombone Shorty and Tank and The Bangas but also for being named 2022 Artist Ambassador for Independent Venue Week, going on its fifth year.

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Taking place July 11-17, Independent Venue Week celebrates the “spirit of independence” with special programming taking place at participating venues around the world. Big Freedia certainly exemplifies that mission.

Independent Venue Week in 2021 featured 450 shows across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

Returning venues include Minneapolis’ First Avenue, Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom, and Seattle’s The Crocodile as well as first-time participants including NYC’s Brooklyn Made and Philadelphia’s Underground Arts.

Big Freedia joins past Independent Venue Week Artist Ambassadors Bartees Strange (2021), The Kills’ Alison Mosshart (2020), Fantastic Negrito (2019), and Prophets of Rage/Public Enemy’s Chuck D (2018), as well as artist ambassadors for the UK initiative including Wet Leg (2022), Nadine Shah and Portishead’s Adrian Utley (2018), Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood (2014) and more in drawing attention to the importance of this critical music industry sector.

Big Freedia spoke to Pollstar about her career, including a reunion with another Queen (as in Bey), and what Independent Venue Week means to her.

Pollstar: Congratulations on being named Independent Venue Week Ambassador.

Big Freedia: Yeah, I’m very excited to be the ambassador.

What does all that entail?

It’s supportive of all of the different artists from around the world. We’re very grateful for all of these independent venues, bringing all these people from different walks of life together and creating spaces and parties.

And it’s really exciting, too, because I will be touring throughout the whole summer. Today [June 10] is the first day of my tour with Trombone Shorty. As an ambassador, hopefully I’ll be used throughout the summer.

I’m very grateful to be the ambassador of the independent venues. We are, and I am, super excited for all of the venues all across the world that continue to support artists like me and what we do. We love you; keep on providing the services and opening doors for many other artists that will come behind us.

For a New Orleans artist like yourself, having the city shut down for the pandemic after being shut down by Hurricane Katrina some 15 years ago must have felt like a doubly whammy.

It definitely got to me. You know, there’s no place like New Orleans in the world. And Katrina shook up the world so bad; we were displaced to all of these different states and cities around the world. But I was able to get out and perform. I was requested a lot, especially in Houston. [Bounce] was all over Houston. And then once New Orleans opened back up, I was able to just blast it all from there. So [the scene] had its ups and downs between Katrina and the pandemic. But it allowed me to be able to take some time to make some music, to re-create and to just keep on grinding.

You’re called the Queen of Bounce. For non-New Orleanians, can you explain what bounce music is? How it differs from, say, hip-hop or go-go music?

It’s not in the suburbs, but out of hip-hop is bass music that was underground for such a long time. But for the last decade, I have been blessed to be able to take New Orleans bounce national to international, around the world, and make people aware of what we’re doing and what we love in New Orleans. And I mean from babies to grandmothers, bass work in New Orleans.

This sound has been around for a long time and, now, going on three decades of it as popular dance music. And when I explain bounce music to people, this uptempo, heavy bass, the call and response, you know it has a lot to do with the shaking of the ass. And it’s a New Orleans thing. And it’s what our children know, what they breathe every day and what they love.

I have been able to be the ambassador and be blessed to take the sound and culture all around the world. And, you know, it has been a whole lot over the last five to 10 years. Everybody’s bouncing everywhere now. So it has definitely become infectious around the world.

You’ve also reunited with Beyoncé, with whom you collaborated on “Formation,” this time on a track called “Break My Soul.” What can you tell us about that?

It feels surreal to be on a track with Beyoncé once again. I’m honored to be a part of this special moment and I am incredibly grateful for all God’s blessings.