March 29, 2016 10:15 PM

As two of country’s top acts, Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley have a lot in common. But when the longtime friends get together, talk turns to family rather than fame.

“We’ve had this similar trajectory of life and family,” says Bentley, 40. “That’s always the biggest bond for us — being married and having kids. That’s the real stuff.”

The pair, who will be hosting the ACM Awards together on Sunday, married within a year of one another (Bentley in 2005 and Bryan in 2006) and both had their first kids in 2008.

Perry Hagopian

When Bentley learned his third child was going to be a boy — son Knox is now 2 — after having had two girls, Evie, 7, and Jordan, 5, Bryan couldn’t contain his excitement.

“When he had his first boy, I was like, ‘Yes!’ ” says Bryan, 39, who has two sons, Bo, 8, and Tate, 5, plus his late sister’s son and two daughters, whom he is now raising.

“I have three boys now, so that’s my out: ‘Baby, I’m going fishing and I’m taking the boys!’ ”

Perry Hagopian

Bentley wasn’t so sure. “At the time, I was reserved about it. I’m crazy about my girls and I’m very protective of them. But Luke was like, ‘You’ll see!’ And it is unbelievable.”

He adds, “Knox is a little mini-me. He loves airplanes, loves hockey, loves fishing, loves any sport. He is going to be my ticket to do a lot of fun stuff! I love being outdoors and my girls do a lot of outdoor stuff, but we also do a lot of theater and dance.”

Bryan says with a laugh: “Me at a ballerina deal? I don’t even know what I’d do!”

“It would be good for you!” Bentley says.

“It may be, but I wouldn’t even know what was going on,” quips Bryan.

“Dude,” says Bentley. “That’s how girls change you — you don’t know, but you learn!”

For more on your favorite country stars, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, featuring a special country insert.

— Eileen Finan

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