Audio Engineer Kesha Lee in Atlanta, in a Pandemic: 'I Feel Like I'm Not Making Progress Quick Enough'

While she begins to struggle with productivity at home, Lee is considering traveling to another state for a new engineering gig.

Since getting her start through a chance meeting with Gucci Mane, Atlanta-based audio engineer Kesha Lee has worked on chart-toppers like Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” and Migos’ “Bad and Boujee,” and is now the go-to audio engineer for rappers including Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert. She spent the past two-and-a-half years working on Uzi’s Eternal Atake album in the artist’s native Philadelphia, before it was released on March 6 — mere weeks before the near-national lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus began.

As part of Billboard’s efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we will be speaking with Lee each week to chronicle her experience throughout the crisis. (Read last week’s installment here and see the full series here.)

Last time we spoke, you were working on creating an engineering YouTube channel. What’s changed for you in the past week?

I feel like I’m not making progress quick enough. Two people were giving me pep talks, saying, “Take your time,” but also, “Hurry up. You’ve been planning this for a while and nothing’s going to be perfect. Just start.” When I’m home, I don’t really feel like posting. I feel like I should get on it, but when I work with artists, it’s a feeling kind of thing. When you feel you’re ready or when you feel good about something, then you put it out to the world. I don’t think anybody should rush to do anything, but also… don’t take forever. It’s crazy that I’m on YouTube, because I don’t like being in videos.

What do you think is holding you back?

I may have cabin fever, just a little bit. Let’s say I work for a month straight and we’re in the studio all day, 24 hours a day. I’m the type of person where, out of that month, if I can have a spa appointment, and maybe another day go sit down and eat instead of getting it to go, I feel good. I’m good with that. Being home like this, it’d be nice to have one moment where I’m like, “I did something fun,” and then I come back and work on my goals.

What don’t you like about being in videos?

When Instagram first started and it was a photographer kind of thing, I was trying to be really creative and it was very consuming. You’re always looking at yourself. I don’t like that. For my YouTube, I’m going to have to film myself and it just feels like a very self-consuming thing. I’m not really outgoing, or an in-front-of-the-camera-type of person. So when it’s time to do that, it’s not my comfort zone.

But the channel is to help other people, because I get so many DMs from people saying I motivate them, or I inspire them, or, “Please keep sharing your journey; it’s helping me.” So that’s the driving force to me posting stuff. That makes me want to keep posting. I’m like, “Okay, it is helping someone.”

Do you think you’ll pick up any new engineering work soon?

I know this is crazy, but I may have to go to work soon. I didn’t think it would be this soon. If I do, I think I’m going to do a [how-to] packing video [for YouTube].

Would you have to travel for the job?

Yeah. Flying would be way more convenient, but I think I’m going to drive.

How do you feel about going back to work?

I’m cool with it, I just need to figure out a way. Before, flying would be a no-brainer and a hotel would be okay. A hotel may not be that bad, because they have to clean it a lot, but I don’t know. You’re still near a lot of people in the hallways and the elevator and things like that. So I don’t mind going back, I just have to figure out ways that I’m comfortable with.

At this point in your career, do you feel like you can be more selective with what projects you take on?

I don’t like turning down work. But when it comes to mixing, I would rather mix something that I recorded. I feel like most people do want to be a mix engineer. You start off recording and that’s where you want to end up being. But I don’t really care to mix, because there’s not that much interaction with the artist or the creative process. To me that’s, like, the office job part of engineering. You’re in this room by yourself, at the same desk, and you don’t really change scenery that much. Those types of jobs, I try to keep away from, because it’s just not as fun.

What music have you been listening to around the house?

Lolo Zouaï. She’s so amazing. I think she just came out with two new songs. And the way I listen to music, if there’s a song I like, I play that song on repeat for days.