"I still don't think that has sunk in all the way," says the singer-songwriter, 34, with a laugh in a recent interview with PEOPLE. "Everybody says don't meet your heroes, but he came to Nashville and gave me some really great career advice about getting started and how to treat people and how to have longevity in your career. He was genuinely the nicest person I've ever met."
Birge has now not only met his musical hero, but also now finds himself collaborating with the fellow Texas native on his latest single "That Drink," a reimagined take off of McCoy's 1994 chart-topper "Wink." In fact, "Wink" has long played throughout the span of Birge's life.
"I've worn that song out over the years," explains Birge, who is currently out on the road with fellow country music artist Matt Stell. "It's one of those that just gets you from the first guitar riff. It's that honky tonk, grungy country music that just gets in your bones and is infectious. The lyrics are a little bit quirky, so it kind of catches you by surprise, but it's just got a feel-good hook that once you hear it, you never forget it."
In fact, the song's contagious nature eventually caused Birge to sit down and essentially "rewrite" his favorite '90s country song.
"I did it with the intention of just having fun," he says of "That Drink," which also pays homage to nineties greats such as Mark Chestnutt, David Lee Murphy and Tracy Byrd. "I thought it was so off the wall that it might be just something that I'm writing for myself to enjoy. I honestly didn't know if it would ever see the light of day."
But once shared over his social media, it became fairly evident that indeed, Birge's fans wanted more, especially younger ones who may have never even heard "Wink."
"With a song like this, you get people that grew up listening to 'Wink', and then you get people that maybe had never heard it before, and it feels as if they are hearing it as an original song for the first time," says Birge, whose current single "Mind on You" is set to go to radio later this month. "When you can catch all age groups like that, you know you've got something really cool."
Someone else noticed that Birge had something cool too.
Courtesy of Wide Open Music George Birge
"After I posted the teaser of 'That Drink,' I got a call from a no caller ID number and when you get a no caller ID in Nashville, that usually means that somebody famous is calling you," Birge explains, laughing. "So, I answered it, and it was Neal McCoy. He was like, 'Hey man, I'm coming to Nashville to record the song with you.' It still feels like an absolute dream."
The recording of the collaboration, captured in a visualizer video premiering exclusively on PEOPLE, goes to show just how much fun these two were having while working on it.
"It felt like we were at a honky tonk even though we were inside of a studio," says Birge of the four-hour video shoot. "A lot of times in the studio, just because it's a controlled environment, it can feel a little bit stuffy. But, you know, everybody was just dancing and bobbing their heads and smiling and as an artist, that's when you're like, 'Man, I think we might have done something really good today.' It was one of my favorite days I've ever had."
And if things work out as planned, Birge will have many more of these kinds of days ahead.
"When I'm his age, that's exactly the man that I want to be," concludes Birge, who says that he texts or talks to McCoy all the time now. "That's exactly how I aspire for my career to play out. You know, he's been married to the same woman for 40-plus years. He's got a ranch down in Texas. He's got grandkids. He still tours 15 days a month. He's a Godly man and he simply embodies everything that I love about country music."