May 20, 2013 12:00 PM

As the sun rises up over the mountains of the L.A.-area home he shares with wife Vanessa, Nick Lachey walks upstairs, peeks into the nursery of his nearly 8-month-old son Camden John and begins singing. “He’s an angel; he’s the happiest kid,” says Lachey, scooping up his boy and feeding him a bottle before walking out to get the paper with his dog Wookie in tow. “It’s our morning ‘dude time’ and the perfect way to start my day.”

It’s a new dawn indeed for the pop star turned family man. “Vanessa and I were at the point in our lives where we were 100 percent ready to become parents,” says Lachey, 39. “Every single thing in your life changes, and we welcomed that.” Despite juggling diaper duty at home with a busy career—he’s hosting two NBC shows, releasing his first album in 13 years with his band 98 Degrees on May 7, kicking off a summer tour (see box) and promoting his album A Father’s Lullaby, in stores now—he says, “It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this calm.”

That is, until he packs up the family for almost three months of living on a tour bus shared with Nick’s brother Drew and his wife, Lea, and two children. “Camden will be a rock and roll kid,” says Lachey, laughing, who sees himself and Vanessa, 32, as “pretty chill” first-time parents. “We’re not overly obsessive or controlling—I like to think we’re cool and hip.” But definitely not too Hollywood. The family is currently splitting time between California and Lachey’s native Ohio, and “Cincinnati is definitely the long-term plan,” he says. “I’ve just never been able to wrap my head around raising kids in L.A.”

With turning 40 right around the corner (“It doesn’t really bother me,” he says), Lachey is excited about future milestones, including adding one or two more kids to the brood. “I have a beautiful wife who is a beautiful mother, and our life is everything I could have possibly envisioned for my family,” he says. “These are shaping up to be the most magical years of my life.”

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