The Matchbox Twenty star was recruited to write a track for the guitar great's 1999 album Supernatural, and he admits the late former Wham! star inspired him to create the song that went on to win Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocal - and became the second most successful hit of all-time, according to

But it almost didn't feature Thomas at all, because he wanted Michael to sing on the track.

"This was going to be my first time writing a song that I didn't perform on, and I was hoping it would set me up as a writer," he tells Billboard.

"When we finished the song, which we called Smooth, the conversation came around to who should sing it. My first thought was George Michael. In fact, I'd had George in my head when I recorded the vocals in the first place. If you listen to the melody and the cadence, it's an attempt to emulate his style."

Santana passed on the idea and urged Thomas to sing on his own song.

The rocker admits he has always been a big fan of George Michael, and got the chance to tell him on a few occasions: "Because we shared the same manager, I got the opportunity to spend a fair share of time with George. After my third glass of wine I would start to gush, and he would respond, as he did with everything, like a true gentleman, with kind words and insight."

Thomas reveals his admiration of the Brit, who died on Christmas Day (25Dec16), bled into his own music and videos.

"My first solo album was my shift from Wham! to Faith," he says. "My first solo video had pieces of George all over it: the close-up on the boots, the dance... Even my most recent album cover was a lift from the Wham! Bad Boys video."