"You're human, and people all of a sudden have an opinion on something they knew nothing about. "
Michael Ray is opening up about the dark depression he faced after his highly public divorce from fellow country music singer-songwriter, Carly Pearce in 2020.
"I come from a broken family. So, a little bit for me was like, 'Am I repeating the process?'" Ray told People. "I never understood depression or had depression. All of a sudden, I was getting very angry. I didn't trust anybody.
"You're human, and people all of a sudden have an opinion on something they knew nothing about. People use things for personal gain. It does get you in the beginning, and you definitely want to react a certain way because it's human nature."
Ray went on to say that therapy helped him heal. Having that time to focus on himself also helped him process family tragedy, including the 2015 death of his grandfather, which he said he struggled to come to terms with in the past few years as he buried his emotions in touring and his career.
As he was going through divorce proceedings, Ray also lost two more people close to him – his uncle died of a heart attack, and his aunt died by suicide eight months later.
"When those things happen, when real-life scenarios hit you like that, all of a sudden all this other stuff isn't as serious. I started seeing life in a different way," Ray continued.
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Following the divorce, Ray packed up and left Nashville for Dallas, Georgia, a small town just outside of Atlanta. He admits it also allowed him to recharge and refocus on his career.
"It's allowed me to get back to my roots," he added, noting that the town reminds him of his small Florida hometown. "All of a sudden, you're in a creative place because your mind isn’t so cluttered."
His latest EP, Dive Bars & Broken Hearts, released on June 23 and includes the track Workin’ On It, which was co-written by Morgan Wallen. The song is an upbeat ode to putting aside time for the things in life that need fixing, including yourself, and echoes words of wisdom often repeated by his grandmother.
"My grandma always said, 'Make tomorrow better than today.' These lyrics really hit home to where I'm at in my life, and also where I feel like everybody is as a whole over the last few years," Ray said. "There's no manual on this thing called life. We're all figuring it out."
"Everything I went through the last three years got me mentally ready for where I'm at now. I am not at all the same person that I was then. It gave me confidence,” he added. "This record is, in every way, what I’ve been through the last few years, just me as a person and going through what really matters in life. I don't think I've ever been more excited for music to come out."
Ray confirmed his relationship with Pearce in June 2018. They become engaged towards the end of 2018 and married in Nashville, Tennessee the following year. In June 2020, Pearce filed for divorce from Ray after eight months of marriage.
She told People, “I did everything that I knew how to do... This was not a flippant decision. This was something that I really took time to make sure I was doing the right thing. It was very clear that this was not the marriage that I wanted.”
Keep up to date with Michael Ray on his Facebook page here.