December 06, 2013 01:00 PM

It’s been a whirlwind year for singer Jennifer Nettles, who celebrates the first birthday milestone of her son Magnus Hamilton on Friday.

“I cannot believe how fast the time has gone,” the new mom, 39, tells PEOPLE. “The amount of development that happens, to go from a little noodle into this ball of energy — arms, legs, hands!”

She adds, “He’s walking now. He’ll take eight to 10 steps, then plop down and look real pleased with himself!”

“Noodle” is just one of the pet nicknames Nettles and husband Justin Miller have for their boy. “I have many!” she admits while laughing.

“Mags is a good clipped short one. Magaroni and Cheese is a fun one. Somehow that turned into Magaroni Noodle and then sometimes it’s just Noodle, which has nothing to do with Magnus, but he’s a cute little noodle!”

Todd Wawrychuk/ABC via Getty

Not surprisingly, some of the material on her first solo album, That Girl, will cover motherhood. Magnus had his own nursery set up in producer Rick Rubin‘s studio in Malibu, where Nettles spent the month of May recording.

“Each day I would sing until Magnus let my husband or my mom know that he was hungry. Then off went the headphones and on went the baby for a feeding!” she recalls.

The 11-song album will be released Jan. 14 and in February she’ll start a theater tour — with baby on board. “He goes everywhere I go. I have a crib on the bus and that’s where he’ll be,” she says.

“It’s almost unfathomable how wildly different my life is, and how much I love every minute of it.”

— Kay West

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