Kesha Reveals Songwriting Process Behind Vulnerable New Album, ‘Gag Order’

Kesha placed her heart on the line to pen her fifth studio album, Gag Order

Videos by American Songwriter

The highly anticipated project produced by Rick Rubin is slated to arrive on May 19. The resilient vocalist announced the project on April 25, confirming that it will be her first full-length album since her 2020 release, High Road.

While fans would expect upbeat anthems, they will hear a new side of the chart-topping artist in Gag Order. Grunge-like single “Eat The Acid” and “Fine Line” provide a small glimpse of what’s to come —vulnerability and razor-sharp lyricism that will cut deep to the core. 

“I feel like I’m giving birth to the most intimate thing I’ve created,” Kesha told Rolling Stone in an exclusive interview. “I really dug into some of my uglier emotions and sides of myself that are less fun. It’s scary being vulnerable. The fact that I have compiled an entire record of these emotions, of anger, of insecurity, of anxiety, of grief, of pain, of regret, all of that is so nerve-racking—but it’s also so healing.” 

The singer-songwriter said that her cat Mr. Peep inspired her to channel internal emotions through music. Gag Order became Kesha’s quarantine project in the midst of the global health crisis. 

Kesha told the outlet that she was struggling with anxiety at the time, and when Mr. Peeps involuntarily pushed headphones in front of her, she took it as an apparent “sign.” 

“I had this really beautiful, scary, and intense spiritual awakening where I felt like I was talking to my highest self, or God, whatever word you want to say,” she explained about a guided meditation she did after the blessing in disguise. “I fully thought I was having a mental breakdown. I called my therapist and my doctor. They all were like, ‘Oh…you had a spiritual awakening. Yay! Good job.’” 

That specific experience is conveyed in her latest release, “Eat the Acid.” Kesha co-wrote the introspective single alongside esteemed songwriters Stuart Crichton and mother Pebe Sebert via Zoom. The writing session marked Kesha’s launching pad into a new era, one all about “self-exploration” in her late thirties. 

She mentioned that her producer created a “safe space,” where she wasn’t afraid to get in touch with her complex emotions. In fact, she mustered the courage to open up about the current legal battle with label owner and producer Dr. Luke.

Kesha filed a lawsuit in 2014, claiming Dr. Luke “sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused” her. Within the same year, he countersued and denied the allegations. The judge dismissed the case, but Dr. Luke is still going after Kesha for defamation. The high-profile case will go to trial in the summer following the album release. 

The raw project will also include a collaboration with her mother and eight-year-old niece, Luna. The young vocalist will appear on “Only Love Reprise.” Kesha has not revealed how many songs will be included on the tracklist but confirmed that “Only Love Can Save Us Now,” “Happy,” “Too Far Gone,” and “All I Need Is You” will be included. 

Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Elton John AIDS Foundation

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