Mary J. Blige has been learning about herself by listening to her old music during lockdown.

Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige

The 50-year-old singer never used to have the "confidence" to play her old material but has finally realised how "inspiring" her records were and they have motivated her to do some "inner work".

She said: "During quarantine, I learned a lot more about Mary J. Blige. I never, ever really had the confidence to go back and listen to any of my songs. But for some reason I felt like I needed to do that.

"And what I found out is that when I was younger, I was older. You know, because a lot of things that I say in the 'My Life' song and then the 'Work That' song that Kamala [Harris] keeps using. When Kamala came out with it recently, I said, 'Let me go back and listen to the 'Growing Pains' album...

"Well, I didn't realise how, uh, inspiring the album was.

"Because I was doing it. I was in hell. I was in all types of hell and then when it came out, I was in more hell, so I couldn't really enjoy that success...

"[These are] things I needed to hear to help me get my inner work done. Inner working, like my spiritual work, you know — not stinking thinking. Not thinking negative about life, about myself.

"Because people like me, we grew up in environments that were bad and where women suffered and where everybody suffered — but really, a lot of women suffered."

The 'No More Drama' hitmaker is in awe of her younger self and her writing ability, particularly because she was intoxicated for so much of that period of her life.

Speaking to Janelle Monae, Justin Timberlake, John Legend and Leslie Odom Jr. for the Hollywood Reporter's virtual songwriter's roundtable, she said: "So I've come a long way. I just started going back and listening to 'What's the 411', to 'My Life', to 'Share My World' and even the 'No More Drama' album.

"There's so much information in there that when I was writing those songs … I was confused and I was drinking every day, I was on drugs every day.

"And I listen to them now, I am like, 'How does that confused, crazy little girl write the 'My Life' song? How does she write 'Work That'?'

"What I discovered, which has given me the chills, is that we are always trying to learn — we're always who we are, but we don't know we're us when we're young."

And Mary has learned to love herself more thanks to her listening sessions.

She said: "I rejoice in that suffering because now I can carry it like a mantle. Without cockiness or arrogance, but with knowing who I am.

!And it came back to me during the quarantine. I needed that healing.

"I'm laughing because it does sound crazy to me, someone who was so insecure and could never even listen to the sound of my talking voice, let alone my singing voice, let alone look at the shape of my cheeks and my nose and be appreciative of it. I'm still learning to love Mary, but I love her more than I ever did in my life. Like this is real, real stuff. Yeah."