"One time, we were in the car and one of my songs came on and my kids were in the back and they just knew every word," the Phobias star reveals
Advertisement
macy gray
Macy Gray
| Credit: Dimitri Hukke/Redferns

Macy Gray's children love her music as much as the fans do.

The Grammy Award winner, 53, who stars in the new thriller film Phobias, opens up to PEOPLE about motherhood, mental health and her foundation, My Good.

The "I Try" hitmaker, popularly known for her unique voice, reveals the sweet moment she learned that her children Aanisah, 26, Tahmel, 25, and Happy, 24, were among her longtime music listeners.

When asked if they are fans of hers, she tells PEOPLE, "They are, and I didn't even know it. One time, we were in the car and one of my songs came on and my kids were in the back and they just knew every word."

"And it wasn't a popular song of mine," she adds. "I was shocked."

1D3A0045
Macy Gray

Of course, with fan-favorite tunes like "Beauty in the World" and "Still" under her belt, it's no surprise that Aanisah, Tahmel and Happy know their mama's song lyrics.

And if there's one thing Gray is grateful for amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it's that her kids are now adults.

"First, thank God my kids aren't school age — I would have never made it through that," says the star. "And I think there was a lot of inspiration in 2020. For myself, I made a record with my band, the California Jet Club."

The record, titled "Thinking of You," marks Gray and the California Jet Club's first single.

On its Feb. 19 release date, she posted a teaser clip on Instagram, writing, "The only chance me and my band have to really make a difference in all this [amid the pandemic] is to make music and hope it puts a smile on your face. And why would we wait to do that? So here it is."

Speaking further on her experiences with motherhood, the songstress tells PEOPLE what she's most proud of about her children.

"They're all really good people," she explains. "They're very ambitious. They like life. I've learned so much from my kids."

And when asked what she would have done differently when it comes to her life and career — the star says she would have changed some aspects within the role she has played in her children's lives.

"When you're a mom, your middle name is 'Guilt," says Gray. "So, I would change some of the stuff that I taught or didn't teach my kids or some of the things that I've said."

macy gray
Macy Gray
| Credit: Paul Archuleta/Filmmagic

Gray, who has been candid about living with bipolar disorder, explains the importance of raising awareness on mental health and being nurturing to those who may be struggling.

"[Mental health] is very neglected, and not just in this country, but I think globally," the Phobias star says. "We're all kind of socialized to just deal [with our feelings]. Your mother's always telling you, 'Be strong and you'll get through it. Don't cry.'"

"But it's very debilitating and it's expensive [to your mental health]," she adds. "So that's where I really want to help out as much as I can, especially with kids."

Speaking on her own experience with bipolar disorder, Gray explains, "I never thought it was something to be ashamed of until I got older, and people are just so quiet and secretive about it. I didn't know that it was supposed to be such a secret."

In addition to raising awareness for anyone who may be sharing a similar experience, there's another cause that is dear to Gray's heart. "I have a foundation called MyGood.org and we support families who have lost loved ones due to police violence," she says.

The My Good Foundation was co-founded by Gray, Grace Blake and Charyn Harris last year and provides financial support and mental health services, including therapy and grief support, to families impacted by police brutality.