For Bruno Mars, life hasn’t been the same since his mother’s sudden death in 2013.
The “24K Magic” singer opened up about losing mum Bernadette Hernandez in a new interview with Latina magazine, getting candid about how her unexpected passing from a brain aneurysm has altered his perspective.
“My life has changed,” he admitted. “She’s more than my music. If I could trade music to have her back, I would. I always hear her say, ‘Keep going and keep doing it.’ ”
The Grammy-award winning artist said that his mother taught him to “love” and what a “woman is supposed to be.”
“When that goes away, a little more than half your heart goes away with it,” he revealed.
Hernandez was 55 at the time of her death. Mars – whose birth name is Peter Hernandez – is one of her six children.
“You just gotta know that she’s with me everywhere I go,” he told Latina. “It’s something that you can’t imagine – the pain and the things that you keep going back to: ‘I wish I would’ve done this or said this.’ You just have to see life differently. It shows you the real importance of life. Nothing else matters in this world but family and your loved ones.”
Mars, 31, also opened up about his father, Pedro Hernandez, explaining that his “whole sense of rhythm” came from learning to play bongos from his dad.
“He’s an old-school working musician, so that’s where the pinky rings come from, the patent-leather shoes, the suits, and the pompadour. It all stems from watching my father,” he explained. “I remember at the time, me and my sisters would be a little embarrassed when he would take us to school in his big-ass Cadillac. No one had Cadillacs in Hawaii. But my dad would show up in some boat-looking Caddy wearing some silky s—, and we’d run out into the car as soon as possible. And here I am wearing the swap-meet gold, driving Cadillacs.”
He also took on any insinuation that he changed his last name to Mars to hide his ethnicity, calling such claims “so insulting to me, to my family.”
“My dad nicknamed me Bruno since I was 2 years old,” Mars noted, explaining further, “The real story is: I was going to go by ‘Bruno,’ one name. Mars just kind of came joking around because that sounds bigger than life. That was it, simple as that.”
This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.COM.