Reba McEntire can find her own story in Cody Johnson's newest single, "Dear Rodeo." It's why their new duet version of the song, released on Friday (Oct. 2), works so well.

Like the Texas-born Johnson, country icon McEntire was a rodeo rider before she turned her sights to country music. She says the song "really settled in my bones" (quote via CMT) when she heard it.

"[Hearing the song] took me to the '70s, when I realized that my rodeo career was going absolutely nowhere. And that I did have a God-given talent and I needed to be using it," shares McEntire, whose father and grandfather were champion steer ropers. "This [song] was kind of a reminder that it’s going to be okay, that if you do leave rodeo for the music, you’re going to be okay. I knew I was going to miss it. And I was mad because I love that life of rodeo. I’m a third-generation rodeo brat."

Johnson starts this version of the song solo, before McEntire joins in on harmony in the first verse and chorus. The two continue that way until McEntire takes lead late in the song.

"Dear Rodeo" is Johnson's breakup letter to his former career: an explanation of why he had to let it go, but also an acknowledgement that he still misses it dearly and, as with all good relationships, would do it all again, even if it ended the same way. The bridge explains, "I tried like hell to tell myself it was all your fault / I held on tight with all my might / I just couldn't hang on / And that's hard to hang your hat on."

Johnson says he felt like "two peas in a pod" with McEntire when he heard her voice on the new version of the song.

"There’s a little bit of a different feel when you know that somebody can walk the walk they’re talking. And I think it really translates," Johnson muses. "I think that authenticity is one of the things that makes this so special: Neither one of us has a problem saying, 'Hey, this is where I come from. You check the credentials, We’ve got the scars to prove it.'"

Johnson co-wrote "Dear Rodeo" with Dan Couch. The song appears on his 2019 album Ain't Nothin' to It, his first project released in partnership with Warner Music Nashville.

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