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Baby Makes Mike Eli’s House a Home

11/09/2012 at 06:00 PM ET

Mike Eli and Daughter Kline in PEOPLE Country
Brian Doben

Home is where the … baby is?

Two years into their marriage, Mike Eli and his wife Kacey finally feel settled into their living space — and they credit it all to the arrival of daughter Kline Olivia.

“It’s been me, my wife and our dogs in the house since we got married, but when we brought Kline home it really changed the dynamic in so many ways,” the musician tells PEOPLE Country in its latest issue.

“The house definitely feels more like a home now that she’s here.”

The transition from newlywed life to baby bliss hasn’t always been easy — the proud parents are feeling the effects of sleepless nights! — but when it comes to caring for his daughter, the first-time father hasn’t missed a beat.

“I really didn’t want to mess it up, but your instincts kick in,” he says. “I’m not going to lie — I was incredibly nervous and made some mistakes here and there, but you figure it out.”

Taking it day by day (and night!) with their baby girl, it’s been a guessing game for the couple as they learn to adjust to the needs of a newborn.

Recently, after testing out several unsuccessful sleeping arrangements, Mike and Kacey discovered their best bet would be a tag-team effort each night.

“Since you’re half-awake in the middle of the night, we decided we might as well just both get up,” he says. “Then we’re happier people, we’re happier with each other. It gets done more quickly … We decided our marriage needed us both to get up together.”

But the Eli Young Band frontman hasn’t always had to rely on the dynamic duo; Despite years of performing in the spotlight, parenting in front of an audience can take its toll.

“One of my first times burping Kline, Kacey was talking to me, telling me what I need to do and I’m looking up at her,” Mike recalls. “Then Kacey giggles and I realize I’m patting the back of [Kline's] head instead of her back.”

Unfortunately, the doting dad has yet to live down his momentary burping blunder. “It’s one of those things she’s giving me a hard time about,” he shares with a laugh. “I know you have to pat the back and not the head! I was like, ‘You’re making me nervous! Go away!’”

All of his hard work — baby bloopers and all — have already paid off for the country crooner, who was granted the gift of his girl’s first smile minutes before heading out on tour.

“I was holding her about 30 minutes before I was leaving and it was the first time she had a responsive laugh,” he recalls. “We had this moment … I was talking to her and tickling her chin. It was nice right before I had to leave for seven days.”

Currently out on the road with the band, Mike — who is able to still see Kline on camera — has been missing his little one more than ever. Fortunately, with three other bandmates on the bus, there are plenty of opportunities to gush about his daughter.

“I’m pretty sure the guys are sick of my poop stories. All I’m ever talking about is baby stuff and a lot of the time they are incredibly nice about it,” he says.

However, they all may be singing a different tune behind his back. “I’m sure that when I walk out of the room they’re like, ‘Oh, great! Now we can talk about something else!’” Mike says with a laugh.

Already sporting a full head of “really spiky” hair and perfecting her papa’s signature stares, there’s no denying Kline is turning into Mike’s mini-me.

“She’s definitely my kid. When I wake up, I can’t open both eyes for 10 or 15 minutes,” he explain. “The other morning, Kacey and her mom were laughing at me — Kline’s looking to the side with her left eye closed and her right eye halfway opened and I was doing the same thing.”

While 3-month-old Kline may already have her dad wrapped around her finger, when it comes to the homefront, Kacey rules the roost.

Mike Eli and Daughter Kline in PEOPLE Country
Brian Doben

“I sing to [Kline] as much as I can and I make sure that whoever is holding her is not singing to her unless they’re singing correctly,” he jokes.

“Kacey actually does have a voice, but she’s Mama so she can do whatever she wants! You don’t give Mom rules — that’s rule number one. You let Mom give you the rules.”

Content with where life has taken him, Mike admits he has wanted to be a family man for a long time. Now that his dreams have come true, he’s embracing each day with his tight-knit trio.

“A lot of people tell you that they can’t explain [fatherhood] because no one can know that feeling until you actually hold your child for the first time. It’s even better than you think it is,” he notes.

“I’ve always wanted to be a father. I never had that moment where I thought I’d wait forever or loved having no responsibility. I’ve always looked forward to having kids.”

For more on Mike Eli and other country stars, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE Country, on sale now. And to download free holiday music from Brad Paisley, Scotty McCreery and Lady Antebellum go to PEOPLE.com/free.

– Anya Leon with reporting by Danielle Anderson

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PEOPLE.com reserves the right to remove comments at their discretion.

Showing 15 comments

BellaTodd on

Kline?

Oh poor kid…

Nichole on

It’s better than Pilot Inspektor or however they named their kid.. Kline is unique for sure, but better than other celebrities out there.

Kat on

Kline is a dude’s name….

amy123 on

you know that kline is kacey’s maiden name. they just wanted to honor that.

Jennifer on

What a beautiful name for a beautiful baby girl!!!!!!!!!

4mom on

I say it is no one else’s business what a person names their child. She is a cutie! Congratulations to you both and I hope you continue to enjoy every moment of baby bliss. Kline is a beautiful name if it has a beautiful meaning to you.

Tanya R. on

Poor baby girl… but! their daughter, their name choice…

Pita J. on

Focus on what’s important, not her name. She has a dad who spends oodles of time with her and gushes to everyone who will listen about her. So sweet!

Anon on

Mike could be Mark-Paul Gosselaars chubby twin ;-) sweet family…

Carolyn on

Kline would have been a good middle name but it’s hideous as a girl’s first name.

ladyluvb on

awsome name… Enjoy life to the fullest

Jennifer on

Rude!!!

meghan on

A new father swooning over his little girl and all anyone can talk about is her name. You people are so pathetic.

Cortney on

Her name is a southern tradition if it really is her moms maiden name. First born kid gets their mothers or grandmothers maiden name.

Anonymous on

Awww, I love hearing doting daddies gush about their kids! I hope he gets to go home to Kacey and Kline soon, or that they can come join him soon! :) And Mike, bring your girls on the bus next time! :)

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