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Chris Janson felt helpless.
His dear friend and fellow songwriter Brandon Kinney was going through one of life's most challenging moments, watching helplessly as his mother entered the final stages of her life. And while Janson has long made a career out of using words for good, his words in this moment seemed rather inadequate.
"I was just trying to do what friends do for one another," remembers Janson in a recent interview with PEOPLE. "People always say, 'Let me know if I can do anything for you,' but what can you really do other than just pray and try to be a good friend?"
And so that's what Janson did.
But what happened next even caught him by surprise. Mere days after Brandon's mom's death this past December, Janson, 35, woke up in the middle of the night with the idea of a song that seemed to be sitting on his heart.
"I sat up in the middle of the night and texted Brandon," remembers Janson, who has long touched listener's souls unexpectedly with songs like the ACM award-winning, gold-certified "Drunk Girl." "I said, 'Dude, you got to call me as soon as you get up.' So, around the eight o'clock hour, he buzzed me, and I told him about the song. And that day, we got on Zoom and we wrote the song. It was the most powerful co-write I've ever been a part of."
Spidey Smith Chris Janson
That song materialized into "Bye Mom," a song about unconditional love created by two friends who found themselves reflecting on the inevitable and cruel pain one feels after losing a parent.
"When you're crying more than you're writing in a co-write, you know you've got something," says Janson of the song that serves as the first single from his upcoming fourth studio album. "The loss of Brandon's mother is what sparked it and created the moment. And as unfortunate as that is, it's also an incredibly humbling privilege to be able to take her legacy, let it live on, and honestly make it not even about her or us, but make it about everybody."
He pauses before adding, "We were truly blessed with this song."
The Grand Ole Opry member — who has long lived a life directed by his personal faith — puts an extra emphasis on the word "blessed," and for good reason.
"This song was a gift," says Janson confidently. "Brandon and I have never had a song that felt like a true gift to us. Not to sound preachy, but we both truly believe God put this song on our hearts and put it on our minds and put it in our hands and allowed us to be the vessels for this song and Brandon's mom's story."
The already touching song now has an equally touching music video, a music video exclusively premiering on PEOPLE and a music video that stars none other than Kinney, his wife, and their kids.
"That's his childhood truck and his BMX bike in the video," recalls Janson of the somewhat emotional imagery contained in the stunning video directed by Spidey Smith. "And Brandon's kids all play the roles of Brandon throughout his life. It's the most amazing thing. Honestly, it's the best video I've ever been a part of."
Even the video seemed to have come together almost effortlessly, with Janson anxious to note that "this song has navigated itself … we are just along for the glorious ride." Understandably, the tune is already even getting some much-deserved song of the year buzz.
"Brandon and I have been friends for so long and have written so many songs together," says Janson, who's on the road through October on his Back at It tour. "Sometimes, you have these friends that you just want to have so much success with together, and you do to an extent, but… Let me just say that I've always wanted to have a single and a successful one at that with Brandon Kinney."
Spidey Smith Chris Janson
And while the origin of the song comes from a very personal place for both him and Kinney, Janson truly believes that it's a song that everyone can relate to.
"No matter who you are, whether you know them or you don't, whether you love them or you don't, whether you want to get to know them better or you don't … whatever the case may be, everybody's got a mom. And everyone has someone they love more than themselves. That's what this song is about."
Now, Janson says he's just looking forward to sitting back and watching God do His work — through his and his friend's touching song.
"That gives me chills," he admits as he ponders being the vehicle to a few of God's greatest reminders. "At the end of the day, that is why we are here."