First Person

Federator No. 1’s Lilla is ready for Boston’s summer music scene

The Berklee College of Music grad on her gospel roots and joining the band.

Harrison Hill for The Boston Globe

I’ve been singing and writing and playing my whole life. I would find songs that I liked on the radio and teach myself how to play them on the piano. I started singing in a gospel choir at 14. The power of singing with that big of a group and the intensity of the arrangements [was] so beautiful.

I’d never formally studied music before Berklee [College of Music]. I didn’t take that many voice classes. I used to be a competitive swimmer when I was younger and, naturally, I would swim really well, winning regional competitions. When I was 12 years old, I got a new coach [who] changed my natural stroke, and I started losing. That put the fear in my head. I want to sound like me.


Michael Franti, a friend of mine, said: “Take every opportunity to get the music out there. Get people to hear you.” With Stephen Marley, I went backstage at one of his shows, gave him my record, and said, “I’d love to work with you.” And he actually listened to it and liked what he heard.

I met Federator No. 1 at a concert at the Paradise Rock Club. After the show, I met the lead singer, Jonathan Gramling, and he said, “Oh, you sing!” I sent him some stuff to check out and immediately he asked me to join the band. Ever since then we’ve been going strong.

I have a solo band that performs most of my original music. Being an independent artist is great. You have more flexibility. There’s more work, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, especially in this day and age. I always try my best to inspire other women to be strong and wise entrepreneurs, especially in a business predominantly [run by] men.


IN CONCERT See Federator No. 1 on Saturday as part of the free Boston Summer Arts Weekend in Copley Square.