Nothing about the last couple of years was easy for Michael Ray, but he has emerged much stronger as a result. Ray, like so many other artists, was forced off of the road in 2020, because of the pandemic. He also went through a very public divorce with Carly Pearce, after eight months of marriage, and mourned the loss of his uncle to a heart attack, followed by his aunt to suicide.
“When those things happen, when real-life scenarios hit you like that, all of a sudden all this other stuff isn’t as serious,” Ray tells People. “I started seeing life in a different way.”
Rumors about the reasons behind Ray’s split with Pearce flew, especially after the release of her 29: Written in Stone album, which all but chronicled her version of events that led to their marriage’s demise. While Ray, rightfully, doesn’t go into details, he does say it took both of them to make their relationship fail, while also bravely accepting his own share of responsibility.
“Two people were involved in something, and two people dropped the ball individually,” Ray says. “However I dropped the ball, I don’t want to continue that. I did a lot of introspective work.”
Ray’s own parents split up when he was a child, a pattern he didn’t want to repeat. The Florida native openly admits he went to a seven-day retreat to focus on himself and his healing, and also received intensive therapy.
“I come from a broken family. So a little bit for me was like, ‘Am I repeating the process?'” Ray remarks. “I never understood depression or had depression. All of a sudden, I was getting very angry. I didn’t trust anybody.”
Ray’s Dive Bars & Broken Hearts album, out on June 23 is, by his own admission, his best record to date, and one he couldn’t have released if not for the heartache he endured.
“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 says. “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.”
The 35-year-old, who now lives in Georgia and is seeing someone — this time out of the public’s watchful eye — is not opposed to marriage again, and still firmly believes in happily ever after.
“I think maybe down the road, for sure,” Ray says. “Obviously we weren’t getting married with that intention of how things ended. But I believe that that’s what we’re put on this world to do, is to find somebody that you connect with that makes you better and create a family and leave a legacy. So for sure, one day.”