"He was a great writer, a great singer. When Toby came on the radio, you knew who that was," McEntire tells PEOPLE of Keith, who died at age 62 on Monday
After Keith's family confirmed the country icon "passed peacefully" at age 62 on Monday night, McEntire is opening up about her memories of touring with the "I Love This Bar" singer, a fellow Oklahoma native.
"We're going to miss him so much, not only as a friend but a fellow performer and person in the music business and from Oklahoma," McEntire tells PEOPLE in an interview about an upcoming collaboration with Sonic.
"But he doesn't have to fight anymore, and he doesn't have to hurt anymore," she adds of Keith, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer in the fall of 2021. "I hope one day to get to see him up in Heaven. Thank God we have his wonderful music to keep us company, even though he's not here on earth with us."
In the mid-'90s, McEntire and Keith performed concerts together. "That was a lot of fun," she recalls of the tour. "Toby was more of the renegade, the outlaw type, and I'm the Little Miss Goody Two-Shoes, and so it was kind of like two ends of the spectrum."
Throughout his decades-long career, Keith captivated audiences with chart-topping country hits including "Should've Been a Cowboy," "I Love This Bar," "As Good as I Once Was" and "Made in America," among others.
"He was a great writer, a great singer. When Toby came on the radio, you knew who that was," says McEntire. "Toby Keith was a distinctive vocalist, a stylist, that you knew exactly who he was. So, that's a wonderful trait to have."
Referencing Keith's 2011 hit "Red Solo Cup," the Not That Fancy author quips that the lyrics of that song resonate with her: "He and I do have that in common — I do love me a Solo cup."
On Tuesday, Keith's family shared news of his death in a social media post. "Toby Keith passed peacefully last night on Feb. 5 surrounded by his family. He fought his fight with grace and courage," read a statement. "Please respect the privacy of his family at this time."
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