Clay Cook tells PEOPLE that "2020 has made me so grateful for all the good we have in our lives" in an exclusive chat surrounding his new performance
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Clay Cook family
Clay Cook and family
| Credit: Brooke Cook/Instagram

Clay Cook is counting his many blessings.

Following Zac Brown Band's touching performance last week of "The Man Who Loves You the Most" on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the newly minted father of three tells PEOPLE he's looking forward to Thanksgiving this year for a multitude of reasons, all boiling down to the love for his family.

Cook, 42, shares three children with wife Brooke: new daughter Cecilia "Ceci" Ellen, 8 weeks, plus her big brothers Theron "Teddie" Maine, 2, and Charles "Charlie" Robert, 4.

"This Thanksgiving is already special because it's Ceci's first, but 2020 has made me so grateful for all the good we have in our lives," says the musician.

He adds, "We can't all be with our loved ones this year, but I'm reminded of how thankful I am for all the people in my life even though I can't physically be with them."

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When Cook reunited with his bandmates to record their performance of "The Man Who Loves You the Most," he tells PEOPLE, "it had been months since we had all seen each other" amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

"I've never had such a strong instinct to hug someone as I did when we got together – but we couldn't," Cook laments. But, he adds, "Playing together again after so long felt like how I would imagine a high-performance athlete feels after being injured and then being able to play their sport again. It felt so good to get back to doing what I love."

"We are all fathers and husbands and have other interests, but we are musicians and have been musicians for much longer," he continues. "It definitely has a different type of emotion attached to it. It was truly beautiful to be able to sing and play with the guys again."

The band wrote and recorded "The Man Who Loves You the Most" before Ceci was born, Cook shares. And "now that she's here, this song definitely hits different," he says.

"All the guys already had daughters, so now that I'm a girl dad for the first time, I feel even more bonded with them. At the end of the performance you can even see Zac tearing up a bit," he continues.

"When that happens, it's hard for all of us to keep it together," Cook admits. "We are all part of this story having daughters together."

"The Man Who Loves You the Most" is streaming now on