Conan Gray Talks How 'Bizarre' Fame Is and Why He Prefers Being an 'Observer of Life' Instead

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2022 Conan Gray press photo cannot appear anywhere before June 24, 2022 credit: Brian ziff
2022 Conan Gray press photo cannot appear anywhere before June 24, 2022 credit: Brian ziff

Brian ziff Conan Gray

Conan Gray, the shy, small town-raised and YouTuber-turned-pop star is reflecting on his journey to stardom — something he never particularly wished for — and how he's learning to appreciate it day by day.

The "Generation Why" singer released his second studio album Superache on Friday. In the past, Gray teased this album to be everything he was "too afraid to say" in his debut album Kid Krow — and it truly delivered. In Superache, listeners find Gray wearing his heart on his sleeve as each song, described as "diary entries" by the singer, reflects on tumultuous relationships, family struggles and most importantly, "unreciprocated love."

"To me, it [the album] hopefully means that there will be a few more people in the world who will feel like they're not alone in their situation, and that they will be able to find some comfort in the fact that I am also absolutely ridiculous, and also handle pain in the same ridiculous way," Gray, 23, tells PEOPLE.

Conan Gray 2022 super ache album
Conan Gray 2022 super ache album

Superache Album Cover

RELATED: Conan Gray Says He's 'Never Actually Dated Anyone' But Has 'Been Heartbroken': 'Makes Me Nervous'

And even though Gray's main concept on the album is love and relationships, the "Heather" singer admits he's never truly experienced being "in love."

"I've been heartbroken. I've loved people and have had them not love me back, and that's kind of when I get heartbroken," he explains. "I think that true love is a reciprocated thing. Otherwise it's mostly just infatuation or something."

Though this may be the case, Gray optimistically says he's excited for the day he does fall in love and gets his heart "absolutely shattered."

"I think that will be a very fun day," he says. "And I think it'll make for a really fun, ridiculous album."

Gray also draws inspiration from being a people-watcher (hence his 2021 song "People Watching," also featured on the album) and has found comfort in it from a young age.

"I've always been much more of an observer of life than a participator. I still am that way. I feel like I was only able to witness life and grow as a human by watching other people and seeing them do things," he says. "I think people watching to me is just about seeing, spending my whole life witnessing these things and wondering what it's going to be like when it actually happens to me. But the truth is, it's never going to happen to me unless I get some bravery and try to put myself out there."

INDIO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 16: Conan Gray performs onstage at the Coachella Stage during the 2022 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival on April 16, 2022 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)
INDIO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 16: Conan Gray performs onstage at the Coachella Stage during the 2022 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival on April 16, 2022 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)

Kevin Winter/Getty Conan Gray

Fame is no exception to these feelings for the "Comfort Crowd" singer as he says it's against his "nature" and finds it to be "bizarre" — but is "grateful" for it nonetheless.

"Fame is not something that I think I'll ever be super comfortable in. But my fans are very kind people. I think that my fans are very similar to me," he says. "There's some people who are very good at being famous, and I don't think that's something that I really know about."

It's his friends, however, that he says put him in his place and put "into perspective how odd it is."

"Some days I'll wake up and I'm like, 'I don't really want to do this shoot' or something. And they're like, 'Shut up Conan, who cares? Just shut up,' " he says with a smile. "They're always the first people to remind me that everything is very odd. They also remind me constantly that I am extremely lame and that they don't know why anyone likes me. That's a good thing."

He adds, "Everyone needs to be put in their place. Doesn't matter who you are."

As Gray was growing up, he says he experienced bullying after "moving around a ton" and eventually ended up in a high school in Texas where he was "one of three Asian kids" in his grade. Looking back, the singer says his younger self would be "relieved" that he turned out "OK" — and has a piece of advice for fans who also feel like they have trouble fitting in.

RELATED: Conan Gray Opens Up About Taylor Swift, His TikTok Hit and Embracing His Japanese Heritage

"People are mean. And they stay mean, there's always going to be mean people in the world. I can't say that it's gotten better," he says. "Doesn't matter who you are, there's always going to be mean people in school and college and in the workplace. There's just mean people and it always, always stems from insecurity."

He adds, "But the truth is, you become better at realizing that these things that people say don't matter. It's something that I think happens within yourself, realizing that these things can't affect you. You can't let them. It's just not worth entertaining. Just become a version of yourself that you enjoy. And if you like that, then that's good enough."

Another key component, he says, is the value of friendship — from the "other outcasts" he befriended in high school, to friends in the industry he can relate to like Olivia Rodrigo.

Pop Star Conan Gray Talks Fame, Feeling Like an Outcast and Friendship with Olivia Rodrigo
Pop Star Conan Gray Talks Fame, Feeling Like an Outcast and Friendship with Olivia Rodrigo

conan gray/instagram Conan Gray and Olivia Rodrigo

"Friendship is everything to me. I mean, I very much look at my friends like family. And when you're someone who's going through all these major changes in your life all at once, it's nice to have people that you can depend on," he says. "I think throughout my life, I've always had friends that I could cry to and rant to and it's just important, no matter who you are, to have people that you can find comfort in."

In regards to Rodrigo, 18, he continues, "She's a wonderful person and a very, very talented songwriter. It's nice to have people that you can relate to."

Superache is out now.