Kelly Clarkson Felt 'Depressed' for Years Before Moving to NYC: 'I Really Needed the Change' (Exclusive)

"My kids are thriving here. We're just doing so much better," Clarkson tells PEOPLE after moving to the East Coast for her talk show

<p>Mike Coppola/Getty</p> Kelly Clarkson

Mike Coppola/Getty

Kelly Clarkson

Moving to New York City gave Kelly Clarkson a new lease on life.

At SiriusXM’s Next Generation Industry & Press Preview event in N.Y.C. on Wednesday, the 41-year-old pop superstar opened up to PEOPLE about moving her NBC talk show from Los Angeles to the Big Apple and how the change has impacted her mental health.

"I was very depressed for the last three years — and maybe a little before that, if I'm being honest. I think I really needed the change," Clarkson tells PEOPLE. "I needed it for me and my family as well. My kids are thriving here. We're just doing so much better, and we needed a fresh start."

Related: Kelly Clarkson and the Bush Twins Reflect on Their Weight Loss: 'Jeans Are So Hard When You Have a Butt'

<p>Bryan Bedder/Getty</p> Kelly Clarkson

Bryan Bedder/Getty

Kelly Clarkson

The Grammy winner relocated to the East Coast with her two children, daughter River Rose, 9, and son Remington Alexander, 7, ahead of last month's season 5 premiere of The Kelly Clarkson Show, which previously taped in California. The move also came shortly after Clarkson's divorce from ex-husband Brandon Blackstock after nearly seven years of marriage was finalized in June 2022.

"Emotionally, I'm better," says Clarkson, whose divorce partly inspired her latest album Chemistry, which was released in June and chronicles the intense highs and lows of a long-term relationship.

For a significant amount of time before coming to N.Y.C., the "Miss Independent" singer didn't necessarily feel as though she was allowing herself the time and space to process her own feelings.

"I think we get kind of tied up, and you feel like you have to keep going and keep smiling for others," explains Clarkson. "You can only compartmentalize so much, you know? And I'm very good at it, but you can only do that for so long."

<p>Cindy Ord/Getty</p> Kelly Clarkson

Cindy Ord/Getty

Kelly Clarkson

Related: Kelly Clarkson to Host and Perform at This Year's 'Christmas in Rockefeller Center' Holiday Special

Now, she feels more in touch with herself — thanks in part to the city's pedestrian-friendly geographic structure. "Before I got a cold for two weeks — thank you, kids — we were literally walking to and from work every day," says the musician. "It's a beautiful place. It's a beautiful energy. I was talking to Maren Morris, and she was like, 'How is it living here?' Because we're both Texas girls, and it's just been incredible. The energy of it is very me."

One part of N.Y.C. culture Clarkson's particularly found herself enjoying is that she often encounters fans on the street but never gets mobbed by a large crowd. "All celebrities should know this. When you live here, people do recognize you, but they just say, 'Oh, hey, what's up?' And then they keep walking. It's incredible," she says with a laugh.

She's even become so accustomed to the city that her favorite method of transportation is the subway, even though many celebrities of her stature wouldn't want to trap themselves in a confined, often crowded space.

<p>Mike Coppola/Getty</p> Kelly Clarkson

Mike Coppola/Getty

Kelly Clarkson

Related: Kelly Clarkson Says She Worried Moving to NYC Was a 'Horrible Decision' — but Now 'I Genuinely Love It'

"I have literally never been bothered on the subway. Maybe just like, 'Oh, hey, I like your music,' but then they walk off," adds Clarkson. "That's what I love about New Yorkers. Everybody's got their own life. They're like, 'Yours is not more important than mine, so have a nice day.'"

During the SiriusXM event, the American Idol alum announced the launch of her own year-round channel with the broadcast company, Kelly Clarkson Connection, where she'll play a mix of her own songs and other artists' music across all genres.

"Music is such a personal experience for all of us, and I am stoked to have the opportunity to curate a channel of all of my favorites," said the musician in a press statement. "I hope that people tune in and enjoy it as much as I loved making it!"

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