There would be no Garth Brooks if there wasn’t James Taylor, and that’s why Brooks’ Christmas album is so special to him. His idol is featured on a song Brooks co-wrote with his wife, Trisha Yearwood.

“What I’m Thankful For” is the last track featured on Brooks’ collaboration with Yearwood, "Christmas Together," and as his fans know, the last track on every album is his favorite. Brooks spoke with Taste of Country about his collaboration with Taylor and what it was like the first time he met his hero.

“What a great artist,” Brooks says, beaming. “Why I got into music was James Taylor, so to see him be a real down-to-earth guy that’s unbelievably talented . . . then to hear him sing those lyrics of ‘What I’m Thankful For,’ which is a song Ms. Yearwood and I got to write together, that was definitely a highlight of my recording life.”

He admits it was overwhelming to meet his hero for the first time.

“I cried like a baby when I met him. VH1 did a show where they paired somebody with their hero,” he recalls. “I got paired with mine and we did ‘Sweet Baby James’ and ‘The River.’ I wrote ‘The River’ practically trying to rip off every lick that James Taylor had, so it was neat to hear him sing those lyrics because that’s who inspired you to write them.”

“He’s really a shy guy, painfully shy so he didn’t say anything, he just came over and hugged me,” Brooks continues. “That hug I’ll remember the rest of my life. It was like your own dad or brother hugging you."