Kesha’s Mother On Dr. Luke’s Alleged Abuse: “She Was A Prisoner”

Pebe Sebert has given an exclusive interview to Billboard discussing in depth, for the first time, the sexual abuse allegations her pop star daughter Kesha has levied against longtime producer, Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald. The interview arrives just a day after sources told The Wrap that Sony would be ending their contract with Gottwald and his label, Kemosabe Records, as a result of the bad publicity incurred by the allegations.

Kesha has been trying to break her contract with Gottwald/Kemosabe since accusing the producer of sexual and psychological abuse in 2014, calling upon Sony to step in and help sever all ties “that bind me to my abuser.” Sony has claimed that they have no legal authority over Kesha’s contract with Gottwald, and last month, a judge denied Kesha’s request for an injunction allowing her to record outside her contract. Gottwald has denied the allegations, accusing the singer of spreading lies in order to get out of her contract so she can score a better, bigger record deal. According to Sebert, nothing could be further from the truth.

“She was a prisoner,” Sebert told Billboard. “It was like someone who beats you every day and hangs you from a chain and then comes in and gives you a piece of bread. Luke would say, ‘You look nice today’ and send her into ­hysterics of happiness because she was programmed to expect nothing but abuse.”

Kesha has worked with Gottwald for 10 years, since she was 17, save for a two-year period beginning in late-2005/early-2006 and shortly after Kesha alleges Gottwald raped her. In her 2014 lawsuit, Kesha claimed she attended a Hollywood party with Dr. Luke, that he gave her what he called “sober pills” but she says were GBH, and then brought [her] “back to his hotel room alone and rape[d] her while she was unconscious.” Kesha alleged that she woke up at Gottwald’s the next morning, “sore and sick” and not sure where she was.

“Looking back, I don’t know why we didn’t go to the police,” Sebert told Billboard. “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.”

Two months later, Kesha and Sebert clashed with Gottwald over who she should hire to be her manager; they didn’t communicate again for two years, during which time Kesha signed a management deal with David Sonenberg at DAS Communications and even came close to finalizing a record deal with Warner Bros. Records. Unfortunately, Gottwald swooped back in and reminded her that she had a pre-existing contract and could do no such thing.

“Kesha would tell me she was going to take her car to Mulholland and drive off the cliff,” Sebert told Billboard about her daughter’s disappointment. “She was a little dramatic, but I never knew for sure.”

Shortly after that, Kesha alleges she was contacted by Gottwald, who told her she had 24 hours to fire her managers and lawyer and come back to him. “Anytime I get a contract, he’s going to come ­forward and basically say he owns me,” Sebert recalled Kesha saying. “What do I do?”

Shortly thereafter, Kesha fired Sonenberg and signed with Gottwald’s publishing company, Prescription Songs. In 2010, Sonenberg sued and both Kesha and Sebert were called to give depositions. According to Sebert, the only other person Kesha had told about the rape at that time was Sonenberg, and sure enough, Kesha was asked whether Gottwald had ever given her a “roofie” or had coerced her into sex. Under oath, Kesha denied the allegations, and Sebert corroborated her denials. Gottwald successfully had their testimonies unsealed after Kesha made those same allegations against him in 2014.

Sebert told Billboard that Kesha was scared. Her 2014 lawsuit alleges that Gottwald repeatedly threatened to “destroy” the pop star and her family if she ever came forward about the abuse, which had continued since they had started working together again. One time, the suit claims, Gottwald walked “down to the beach to ‘have a talk’ with her,” and “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.”

Meanwhile, Kesha’s career had taken off, with her debut record, Animal, topping the Billboard 200. But according to Sebert, that only made Gottwald more abusive.

“This is when Luke started getting really hateful,” she told Billboard. “He saw her as a cash cow and started manipulating her all the time. She thought all her dreams were finally coming true, but this was just a fucking trip to hell. … Luke almost destroyed us. And he has done it intentionally.”

Kesha’s lawsuit alleges that Gottwald repeatedly drugged her or coerced her into taking drugs, made unwanted sexual advances on her and was verbally abusive to the point where she developed bulimia.

“Bulimia is a control issue,” said Sebert. “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.”

Finally, in 2012, Kesha hit her breaking point and checked into a rehab facility. There, in intense therapy, she decided enough was enough. “She couldn’t go on as a healthy person,” Sebert said, so long as she was working with Gottwald. Filing a lawsuit and going public was the next step. Now, two years later, even with support from the public and fellow artists like Adele, Kelly Clarkson and Lady Gaga,  her future as a recording artist remains up in the air.

“Dr. Luke basically owns Kesha until her death,” Sebert told Billboard. “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.” Even news that Sony is dropping Gottwald and his label doesn’t mean Kesha necessarily almost free. Sources say that her contract, with or without Sony, is “ironclad.” Still, Sebert said, her daughter has started to heal.

“Kesha is so much better now,” Sebert told Billboard. “She wasn’t comfortable with having to do this, but I think she realized as this thing progressed that she can advocate for sexual abuse or other things. The fact that she is at peace with that has really been healing.”