Ashley McBryde has been feeling anxious and vulnerable in the wake of her brother Clay's passing.

McBryde's 53-year-old brother, Clay McBryde — an army veteran and police officer from Russellville, Ark. — died in June of 2018. The "Girl Goin' Nowhere" singer tells People she's developed "really bad" anxiety since then, which has led to "bad panic attacks."

“You keep your feet moving or you will completely fall apart. As women, we don’t allow ourselves the falling apart time nearly enough. Luckily my body and my psyche has decided to choose those moments for me now," she explains, adding that she's since learned to maintain the panic attacks.

McBryde got the news of her brother's death while she was on tour, and she says that the anxiety would manifest in "weird ways" while she was trying to maintain the reality of a hectic touring schedule that had her performing for hundreds of people each night. But the passion for what she does — and for her fans — has kept McBryde balanced during those trying times, as well as knowing that her live show was helping someone in the audience escape from the struggles of their own life.

“I said to myself, ‘It’s not about you, so get over yourself.' If someone is having a sh--ty day and they need to be free for an hour, where their bills aren’t late and their husband isn’t mad at them and the dog isn’t sick … as long as I am there on stage, everything is OK for them," she analyzes. "Nobody cares if I’m hungover or if I’m sad or if I’m tired or if I got sh--ty news this morning. They care how they feel. And in the end, that’s all I care about.”

She also channeled her complicated feelings into song. Sitting down with friend and "A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega" co-writer Nicolette Hayford, whose late brother was also a veteran, the two wrote a song called "Two Birds, One Stone," which used it as a way to process her anger and connect with people experiencing similar emotions.

“It was very therapeutic. I was going through all of the stages of grief I never expected to, and boy, I was angry that day," she says of what was a six-hour songwriting session. “You have an obligation to one another as humans to remind each other that if you feel that way, someone else might feel that way."

The breakthrough star is currently working on her sophomore album, the follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut Girl Going Nowhere. She's set to serve as an opening act on Miranda Lambert's 2019 Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars Tour in October and November.

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