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.