By Ray Rahman
Updated January 22, 2014 at 04:00 PM EST
Faith Silva

There’s no denying that “Stay” is a powerful song. The Grammys agree, Patti Smith agrees, and when Rihanna heard songwriter Mikky Ekko’s original, she did too — and now you can hear the version that first caught RiRi’s attention exclusively here.

Ekko, who provides guest vocals on the final cut that we’ve all come to know, wrote the ballad with Justin Parker back in 2012, though it wasn’t easy, initially; “I struggled so much with that song,” he has said. “It came from a really vulnerable place for me and I don’t like writing that kind of stuff.”

That struggle, of course, led to the song that became one of the biggest hits from Rihanna’s Unapologetic, and earned the singer some of the biggest accolades of her career, including a spot in EW’s own year-end 10 best singles list.

Take a listen to the original Ekko version below:

Ekko will be up for his first Grammy when the song competes for Best Pop Duo/Group Vocal Performance on this Sunday’s awards. (It’s a high-caliber category this year: Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, Pink feat, Nate Ruess, Robin Thicke feat. T.I. and Pharrell and Justin Timberlake anf Jay Z are also up for the prize). He also performed the song with Rihanna at last year’s ceremony.