Lil Nas X Says He Was 'Scared' to Show His 'Vulnerability' on Debut Album 'Montero' but It's 'Saved' Lives

"I've never done something so personal," Lil Nas X tells PEOPLE of his single "Sun Goes Down" which is featured on his debut album Montero

Baby Montero has arrived!

On Friday Lil Nas X released his highly anticipated debut album, which he's been sporting a fake bump for in photos and videos on social media over the past month since the project has been very much like a "baby" to him.

"I'm like a mother sending her child out into the world," he tells PEOPLE. "I'm super excited for everyone to hear this piece of art I've been working on for such a long time."

Since he first started working on the album at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, the 22-year-old musician (born Montero Lamar Hill) says he's "changed in so many ways."

"I've changed in so many ways," he says. "I've changed the way that I handle a lot of situations, the way I manage my sadness and anger and just understanding that I don't have to react to emotions in certain ways. I can't choose how I feel, but I can choose how to react. I've learned to let people's comments roll off my back."

"The only person that really has to believe in me is myself," he adds. "It's been a lot of self-affirmations this year that I probably would not have been able to do two years ago."

Lil Nas X admits that two years ago, he also wouldn't have been able to be as open as he was on his single "Sun Goes Down," which sees him reflect on coming to terms with his sexuality.

"To be 100 percent honest, I didn't want to do that song at first," he says. "I guess it was because I've never done something so personal. I was scared to let people see my vulnerability, because I didn't want them to use it against me."

"But when I released the song, I got messages from people telling me that it saved their life," he continues. "It doesn't feel real quite yet."

From "Sun Goes Down" to the catchy "Industry Baby" featuring Jack Harlow, the songs on the new album represent Lil Nas X's total journey here, from "places I've been to places I want to go."

"You're getting a lot of stories about me," he says. "You're getting a lot of stories about my past and where I want to be in my love life. But they're also a bop. I feel like I finally found a great balance between being as real as possible within my music and making a hit song."

Though Lil Nas X opened up over the summer about a new relationship, he has since turned a corner.

"I'm at this point in my life where I finally realized that I don't want to fall in love," he says. "I'm so focused on my music career, and love takes a lot of time. It's a lot of responsibility, and I don't think I'm ready to have that extra responsibility on my shoulders right now. When it happens, it's going to happen."

Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X. Charlotte Rutherford

Between album promo and jet-setting across the country to attend star-studded events like the Met Gala, Lil Nas X indeed has had a lot on his plate these past few months. A highlight, he says though, was getting to watch his "Industry Baby" music video with his family in July.

"I'm almost never with them when I'm releasing something new," he says. "So seeing my dad react to the video and seeing everybody having a great time was very surreal. That was a very pinch-me moment."

Lil Nas X Dances Nude in Music Video for New Song 'Industry Baby' Featuring Jack Harlow
Lil Nas X in his "Industry Baby" music video. lil nas x/ youtube

Though Lil Nas X has said that coming out to his dad before he came out to the world in 2019 was nerve-racking, he says he has received nothing but love from his since.

"My dad has been more supportive of me this past year than ever before," he says. "He's 100 percent standing by me, even though I know that's not how he grew up. So it's been really great to see."

RELATED VIDEO: Lil Nas X Rocks Three Regal Looks on Met Gala Red Carpet

As to whether he thinks his 10-year-old self ever could have imagined he'd be at this place in life, he says, "No!"

"I don't know what young me would think," he says. "He'd probably be like, 'I don't know about this dude! He's too cocky!'"

He has a right to be, after all. Along with his Jack Harlow collaboration, Lil Nas X got Elton John, Miley Cyrus and Doja Cat to all make features on the album.

"I hope every single corner of the globe is reached with this album," he says, before declaring, "It's going to happen!"

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