AUSTIN, TX: “I’ve never done like a talking… thing,” laughed Kesha at the beginning of her SXSW panel Tuesday afternoon, going on to explain that while she’s done talk shows and interviews and the like, she’s rarely sat down for as long a conversation as the one she was participating in that day. But it’s easy to understand why she’d want to – the topic of the talk was “Reclaiming the Internet,” a fraught subject for an artist who’s battled so much harassment online, and in real life.
Her lawsuit against producer Dr. Luke was not discussed in Tuesday’s panel, and presumably couldn’t be, as an ongoing legal matter – though her struggles to make music outside of his contract came up when asked about when her fans could expect a new record. “I don’t have a date,” she said. “Hopefully soon I will be able to give it to you. I know that I have somewhere between 70 and 80 songs to choose from. So just know that I am diligently making music, and I cannot wait to give it to you, and I fight that fight every day, so.”
For the time being, the primary topic was the Internet – and how to use it in a way that’s healthy to one’s self-image and mental well-being. Strategies very, but for Kesha, it’s become a simple solution: regulate herself. “I use the Internet to connect to my fans,” she said. “But aside from that, it’s not a healthy place for me – especially not reading comments. If I wanna post something, if I’m really feeling myself, I’ll do it. But I try to limit myself in terms of reading comments, because there can be a million positive ones, but I always gravitate towards the one negative one. And I hold on to that, and I internalize it, and I know that that’s not healthy. It’s an unhealthy habit, to go in and do something that I know is just going end up hurting me.”
Coming to understand that about herself, she explained, is part of an ongoing process of maturity and awareness – of who she was, and what kind of persona she wanted to put into the world. “When I first came out as an artist, I thought I had to be really tough, and I was really young, I had no fucking idea what I was doing,” she laughed. “So I thought to overcompensate, I’d act really tough and act like nothing affected me. I felt that was strength. But I’ve sense realized that I found an immense amount of strength in my vulnerabilities. And once I started taking about the real shit, and things that have hurt me, and things that make me human and emotional, I found that a lot more people can relate to that… That’s the truth, and any time there’s truth, that’s when you really have the power.”
So how does she use that power now? For one thing, she makes no apologies for using the megaphone her fame has afforded her to speak out on issues that matter to her: human rights, animal rights, LGBTQ equality, and more. “If you have a voice, you have the responsibility to talk about real shit that really needs to be talked about.”
And, of course, that includes embracing and announcing her own feminism. So what does the term mean, to her? “I think it’s to be myself, unabashedly and unapologetically, to stand for all of the things that I feel are right. And also be able to be all the things that I want to be. I can be a sexy, funny, gross, psycho, intelligent, beautiful, animal right activist that pisses in the street – I can be all those things! And I feel like for me being a feminist means I’m a motherfucking woman who can be every single one of those things, and they’re not mutually exclusive.”
So how does Kesha cope? How does she deal with negative influences, discouraging voices, those responsible for the battles she’s fought? “This may not be the most hippie, healthy of answers,” she admitted. “But I have people that doubt me, and try to get in my way, and people that are horrible to me. And I kind of just have this mental place I put them all. It’s my ‘fuck you’ list – which is kind of vengeful and evil. But I have a bunch of people that doubt me, and I have the strength inside me, and whenever I just need a little pick me up, I’m like, ‘Okay, you have a lot of people to prove wrong right now, so get your ass up, get out there, and go write a song.’… I am not gonna let hate win. I’m gonna win, and I’m gonna do it, and I’m gonna spread love for the rest of my life, and I’m gonna try to lead a really positive existence.”