Gracie Carol Never Saw a Life Without Her Boyfriend — Until They Broke Up and 'Breakup SZN' Went Viral

"Heartbreak is just a part of life," Gracie Carol tells PEOPLE exclusively

Country artist Gracie Carol met him in kindergarten when they were just 5 years old. They went to school together and grew up alongside from one another and they were each other's first kiss. And mere hours after their high school graduation, the two began dating and had been dating on and off for six years when Carol moved to Nashville to follow her music dreams.

But just as some of those dreams began coming true, they broke up.

"I wanted to get my career started and I wanted to tour, and I wanted to do a bunch of different things … and he just was not into it," Carol, 24, remembers in an interview with PEOPLE. "And that kind of stunned me because that's what I went to college for. That's what I wanted to do with my life. That's why I moved to Nashville. I didn't know anything else besides him and music in my life."

Gracie Carol
Gracie Carol. Kelsey Cotton  

The couple tried to make it work for a while, going back and forth on that far too common teeter-totter of love, dating other people, and determined to find a way to reignite what they once had. But as the pandemic continued, Carol found herself falling deeper into a depression.

"He made me feel so miserable that I had been with other people," the Cincinnati native remembers of the dire time. "It was really toxic. He would cry to me a lot, which made me feel like I did something awful. He blamed so much on me, and I just really thought that it was my fault."

Making things worse was the fact that Carol then contracted COVID.

"I think that was just like the lowest I've ever been," says the TikTok titan, who quarantined alone for two weeks in November of 2020 while recuperating. "I had lost the love of my life. I was sick and I couldn't see people. I honestly could still cry thinking about it."

But it was also during that time that Carol did what any aspiring singer/songwriter has long been taught to do, and that was to put her feelings onto the page and into a song. And before she knew it, she uttered the words "Breakup SZN" …and a song was born.

But it wasn't easy.

"I had been writing so many love songs my whole life," says Carol, who received much attention back in 2014 when a video of her singing with country superstar Keith Urban also went viral. "I felt like I had been happy, but I think all the love songs I wrote were just love songs to make me feel like I was still in love. And I didn't know."

Gracie Carol
Gracie Carol. Kelsey Cotton  

So, in writing "Breakup SZN," Carol said she was focused on making the breakup a celebration of sorts, a 'jump in the car with your girlfriends and turn up the music' sort of celebration that only comes after the hurt has subsided.

And now, there is so much to celebrate.

"Breakup SZN" recently went viral on TikTok, surpassing over 2.3 million collective views and over one million streams of the single itself. Cemented by the lyric 'everyone is on a verge of a heartache," Carol says that she has seen "Breakup SZN" take many a journey for many a listener, depending on their individual circumstances.

"Somebody somewhere is always going to be on the verge of getting their heart broken," says Carol, who even shared a video of her ex-boyfriend hearing the truthful single for the first time. "Heartbreak is just a part of life."

But next time Carol gets her heart broken, she thinks it might be a little easier.

"I have found a lot of people who love me for who I am," she says with a smile. "You have to stick by those who really appreciate you as a person and see the true you instead of turning into somebody else that they think you are — or who they want you to be."

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