Rory Feek Brings a Voice to Tender Tribute 'One Angel' — Written in Memory of His Late Wife Joey

"In a lot of ways, it's hard to believe that it's been five years. Sometimes it feels like yesterday and then, other times, it feels like another life," he says

It's mere moments before a Tennessee thunderstorm, and Rory Feek is in his milk house, wondering aloud if he might still have time to till the garden his late wife Joey once spent so much precious time working within.

"We've been waiting for a long time for spring, so I would love to get out there before it starts raining," Rory, 55, tells PEOPLE, just around the time the raindrops begin to fall. "I'll get to it eventually."

Rory continues to live in the little farmhouse in Pottsville that he once shared with Joey and on the vast homestead where it often feels as if time stands still. But time stands still for no one, even for a singer/songwriter who can still shed tears when talking about his beloved bride.

"Indy was 2 and now she is 7," he says quietly about him and Joey's dear daughter Indiana, who was born mere months before Joey was diagnosed with cervical cancer. "[Indiana] is a little person now," he says with a laugh. "When I look at her, I can gauge the years. In a lot of ways, it's hard to believe that it's been five years. Sometimes it feels like yesterday and then, other times, it feels like another life."

Joey and Rory Feek with baby daughter Indiana
Joey, Indiana and Rory Feek. Courtesy Joey+Rory

But it was, indeed, five years ago that the world lost 40-year-old country star Joey Feek. But it was also five years ago when Rory lost so much more – a friend and a lover, a Joey+Rory bandmate and a confidant, a mother to their daughter and the matching piece to his soul.

And because of that, it still hurts.

Nevertheless, the Grammy award-winning musician and New York Times bestselling author has found a way to wake up every day with some hope and a smile. And in recent months, Feek also made the decision to write and sing again, a feat that will soon be heard clearly on his new album Gentle Man. Serving as Feek's first solo album and the first one he has recorded without Joey by his side, Gentle Man features "One Angel," a song featuring a heartbreaking lyric paired with a somewhat comforting melody, delicately tied together by Feek's tender voice.

But he didn't write this one. His dear friend did.

"Honestly, a lot of people hearing me sing that song might think that I'm angry and these are my words," Feek remarks of "One Angel." "It's not that I don't have moments of that, but it is not my words. I understand the feeling behind those words though."

They are, in fact, the words of Joey and Rory's dear friend Sandy Emory Lawrence, a songwriter who actually lives just down the road from Feek.

"They were really good friends for a really long time," Rory says of Lawrence, who still wears the gift of Joey's boots when she goes riding. "They both loved horses and we both actually sang at Sandy and [her husband] Jack's wedding. I recently was rereading Joey's last wishes, and she specifically asked Jack and Sandy to clip some hair from her horse's tail and make a horsetail braid and wrap that around her hand, and they did."

Rory Feek and daughters, Heidi ( Blonde ), Hopi, and Indiana ( toddler ) at home in Columbia, TN on August 23rd, 2016.
Rory Feek. Hollis Bennett

Sometime after Joey's death, Lawrence wrote the lyrical foundation that would turn into "One Angel," a sweet yet deep look at the pain that Joey's death left behind for all those who loved her.

"I remember hearing it for the first time, and thinking that it was a special, honest feeling that she had shared," Feek remembers of the song, which also includes tinges of frustration and anger that so many felt following Joey's death. "If I ever had a chance to record it, I knew I wanted to."

So, he did.

"When you see someone with so much faith go through something so painful, you wish that somehow God would exempt them from so much heartache and pain," says Rory of his dear wife's plight following her cancer diagnosis. "I love that the song is so honest about that, because I know a lot of people feel like that. I understand it."

But one is left to wonder – will Rory ever write a song for Joey?

"I think there is a better chance now than ever before," Rory concludes. "I've so enjoyed making this new album, much more than I thought I would. I knew I had a voice as a writer, but I didn't know I had a voice as a singer. And now that I feel that I possibly have both the voice of a writer and a singer, there is a good chance that I will be encouraged to put paper and pen at some point and write a song about Joey and Indiana and my life. I don't know. We will see."

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