Macy Gray on Feeling 'Lonely' During Early Success and Why She's Happy Being Single

The singer opens up to PEOPLE about her whirlwind early success, as well as her upcoming album The Reset

Macy Gray
Macy Gray. Photo: Derrick Rodgers Photography

When Macy Gray's Top 5 hit "I Try" broke through in the early 2000s, it presented the singer with a world of possibilities she'd never imagined — and an isolating feeling she struggled to shake.

Gray, 54, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue that the sudden rush of fame and fortune that accompanied her whirlwind success was at once thrilling and challenging.

"I got really beside myself for a long time. I was suddenly really wealthy, and I had a lot of people wanting to be my friend," she says. "I was just a real asshole. I was having a blast, [but] eventually it will make you lonely and miserable, especially if you're drinking every night and doing all kinds of crazy stuff."

The Grammy-winning singer, who will release her 11th studio album The Reset next month, soon became caught up in drugs and alcohol, and though she's been "totally sober" for many years, the lifestyle took its toll in the early years of her success.

Gray says she eventually was forced to reevaluate her priorities after her 2001 sophomore effort The Id failed to make as big a splash as her first, On How Life Is.

Macy Gray during Macy's and American Express Passport '01 - 20 Years of Aids, 20 Years of Hope at Barker Hanger in Santa Monica,
Macy Gray. SGranitz/WireImage

"I think it was just seeing it for myself that I couldn't just do whatever I want and get whatever I want," she says. "Figuring all that out took a long time."

For more on Macy Gray, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

Now, the star lives in Los Angeles with her two oldest children, Tahmel, 26, and Aanisah, 27, while daughter Happy, 24, studies photography in New York City (she shares the kids with ex-husband Tracy Hinds).

With various projects in the pipeline and a recent appearance on NBC's American Song Contest to represent her home state of Ohio, Gray is content with life as a mom — and though she can still write a mean love song, is happily single.

Macy Gray and Son Mel Hinds An Evening with Women Benefit, Inside, Los Angeles, America
Macy Gray with son Tahmel in 2016. Mediapunch/Shutterstock

"I'm not a fan of dating, so I figure I'll run into somebody and they'll really light my fire, and then I'll have no choice," she says, joking, "Everybody says that you really have to work at [relationships], and as soon as they say work, I'm like, girl, I don't need any more jobs!"

The star is also eagerly awaiting the chance to take The Reset — which she says is the first time she's made the album she wanted to make since her debut — on tour in May.

"I'm letting a lot of stuff go and am able to focus on what I want to accomplish," she says of her outlook now. "It makes life a lot easier. I'm good. I'm still having a good time."

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