As the saga continues, Kesha’s mother has now given her side on the ongoing battle between her daughter and producer Dr. Luke (real name Lukas Gottwald). Rosemary Patricia “Pebe” Sebert, a successful songwriter herself, recently gave an exclusive interview to Billboard discussing events which sparked the high publicised legal battle between Kesha and Gottwald. Seemingly involved both personally and professionally with her daughter’s career, Pebe has been a constant presence during Kesha’s rise to fame.
Kesha Rose Sebert filed a case against Gottwald in 2014, alleging that her had drugged and raped her, along with other instances of continued abuse throughout their professional relationship. Kesha signed to Gottwald’s company Casz Money in 2005, a contract which has held her back from working with other labels and publishers, and also management, ever since. Kesha’s lawsuit claims that throughout that time, Dr. Luke has held the reportedly “ironclad” agreement over her as means of control.
While the fundamentals of the case are enough to give anyone pause, and the accusations levelled at Gottwald have sparked huge support for Kesha along with further examination of the music industry at large, the story as told by Pebe, from a mother’s perspective, fleshes out the case with alarming and sordid detail.
Summarising Kesha’s ordeal in one sentence, Pebe states that “she was a prisoner”. Expanding on the shocking allegation that Gottwald drugged and raped Kesha in 2005, when they both attended a party in Los Angeles, Pebe describes how she received a phone call from her daughter the following morning. After a series of unanswered calls, a worried Pebe finally heard from Kesha, who was calling from a hotel and told her, “Mom, I don’t know where I am. I think we had sex. I’m sore and sick. I don’t know where my clothes are. I think I need to go to the hospital”.
Unfortunately Kesha never went to hospital, or to police. Her mother comments that, “Looking back, I don’t know why we didn’t go to the police. Kesha told me not to do anything. She said, ‘Mom, I just want to sing. I don’t want to be a rape-case victim. I just want to get my music out.’ I didn’t follow my instincts.” That Kesha took no action against Gottwald at the time, has been a serious hindrance to her case, along with the fact that both her and her mother swore in court that he had never made any sexual advances towards her, back in 2011.
The apparently contradictory nature of Kesha’s claims have undoubtedly made her case that much trickier. Both the singer and her mother have repeatedly blamed her hesitance to come forward on fear of what Gottwald could do to her career, and to Kesha and her family. In the interview, Pebe repeatedly recalls aggressive and threatening behaviour by Gottwald, directed at Kesha. Describing numerous occasions where he would “scream” at her for hours on end and hurl abuse at Kesha. Summoning Kesha “for a talk”, according to her lawsuit he allegedly “threatened to shut her career down, take away all her publishing and recording rights… He threatened to harm Ms. Sebert and the entire family’s careers, as well as their physical safety.”
The psychological abuse by Gottwald, as described by Pebe, was enduring and shocking. Heightened by Kesha’s success, Gottwald allegedly sought to manipulate the singer endlessly by ridiculing and belittling her musical talent, comparing her unfavourably to her peers, comments on her physical appearance and subjecting her to a huge amount of aggression within their working relationship. This is a sample of the litany of abuse described by Pebe, who says “[Kesha] thought all her dreams were finally coming true, but this was just a f–ing trip to hell.”
Pebe also opened up about how Gottwald both contributed to and encouraged Kesha’s eating disorder. The singer has spoken openly about her battle with bulimia, in her 2015 affidavit Kesha stated that “[Gottwald] encouraged me to not eat — even when I was eight days with no solid food and skipping meals to work out two times a day.” In the interview with Billboard, Pebe comments that, “Bulimia is a control issue… I really believe that the further this thing got with Dr. Luke, the less control she had and the worse her bulimia got, because it was the only thing [that gave her] control.”
The most recent development in the case was the denied preliminary injunction, and the statement from Sony (parent corporation to Gottwald’s label Kemosabe Records) that they were unable to terminate Kesha’s contract. On the surface, Kesha appears to have the option to work with other producers, and theoretically remove all contact with Gottwald, despite her contract with him. However, the reality is that Gottwald does still ultimately control her professional fate. As Pebe explains, “Kesha’s allowed to work with another producer… But Luke gets to approve them. He gets to approve of anyone she works with. He has final say over everything.”
Comments on Gottwald’s character have ranged from caring partner and loving father, to an industry “asshole” who is “a terrible person”. Claims that he refuses to release Kesha due to pure vindictiveness (the likelihood of her career ever recovering while she remains tied to him is extremely small) are echoed by her mother; “Dr. Luke basically owns Kesha until her death. He doesn’t have to give her any money and is under no time constraints. She can’t legally put any new music out, or he can and will sue her”.
Kesha’s fate remains uncertain until the resolution of the courtcase. While her accusations remain unverified, and Gottwald continues to refute any claims against him, it seems that they will stay locked in a kind of check mate. However, the case remains a landmark within the music industry, and throws light on the murkier side of the industry. Instances of artist abuse and sexism are not unknown but Kesha’s case has really opened up the possibility of exactly how disgusting these instances could be. Pending a court ruling, we can hope that the industry at large takes the right actions and sides with an artist, and a human being who may have been unbearably abused, over PR and profit.