Kylie Frey was a rodeo queen and her grandfather's favorite.
"Well, it's rumored that I was the favorite," the rising country star says with a sweet, yet somewhat devilish smile in a recent interview with PEOPLE. "My grandpa was a really important person in my life and, and I wouldn't have grown up in the rodeo if it wasn't for him."
Back in the day, the man with the boots on his feet and the granddaughter with the stars in her eyes would spend countless hours together, dreaming of the days that laid out in front of them, days that would soon have them making a dream come true.
"My grandpa would always say one day, you're going to sing the National Anthem at the NFR (National Finals Rodeo)," remembers Frey, 26, whose father was also a saddle bronc rider. "He would tell me that's how I was going to get my start, because that's how Reba [McEntire] did it and that's how I was going to do it."
Indeed, McEntire too was a rodeo queen, a fiery girl from Oklahoma who sang the national anthem at the NFR back in 1974, long before Frey was even born. But in 2020, Frey too reached that same milestone, a milestone that once seemed unattainable to a little girl from Louisiana looking to make her grandpa proud.
But she did it, and it is a moment that will now forever be frozen in time in the music video for "Horses in Heaven (Featuring Randy Houser)," a music video exclusively premiering on PEOPLE. And on the night she sang the national anthem on that grand stage in Arlington, Texas, her late grandfather watched from his perch in heaven.
But so did country star Randy Houser.
Granted, "Horses in Heaven" had long been a special song for Frey, who included the stunningly heartfelt song on her EP Rodeo Queen back in 2020. But little did she know the response the song dedicated to her grandpa would get from people who too related to it.
"The odds of anyone having the same story of a grandpa teaching them how to ride horses is not very common," explains Frey, who happened to be Shania Twain's pick on USA NETWORK's Real Country back in 2018. "The song was so personal to me that I didn't think anyone would relate to it, but it's been quite the contrary. People have found themselves in the song - sometimes it's not even about their grandpa, but someone else in their life who was influential. It was a big shock to me, and it was a big lesson to know that the more details I could put into a song about my life, the more relatable it would be for others. That song really opened up my world."
The song soon began to get more traction, and on the very night she found out she was going to sing the national anthem at the NFR, she also found out she would be opening for none other than one of her musical heroes Cody Johnson. But as fate would have it, schedules changed, and Frey found herself singing on the same night of the NFR as none other than Houser.
Shortly after Frey sang the anthem and Houser sang a set that included the Johnny Cash tune "Ragged Old Flag," the two exchanged small talk backstage that night and realized that they both had rodeo running through their veins.
So, they decided to record a new version of "Horses in Heaven." And their version, which recently hit the No. 1 spot on the Texas Regional Radio Report, is now featured in the music video that documents how it all came to be.
"Randy just brought the song to a whole other level that none of us knew existed," expresses Frey, who recently inked a new deal with Carnival Music, home of artists such as Waylon Payne, David Nail and Aubrie Sellers. "I'm so thankful for him and I'm so thankful that this video now shows the journey that we have all been on with this song. And I'm thankful for my grandpa, who seemed to be the one that brought everything together."