BAND OF FATHERS

Diamond Rio conceives a new album - and readies its lone parental holdout for a big change!

Diamond Rio drummer Brian Prout doesn't even try to wipe the grin off his face as he talks about the incredible year he's having. First, he married sweetheart and fellow performer Stephanie Bentley. And now, they're expecting their first child - a daughter - Oct. 10. Life is sweet.

After guitarist Jimmy Olander's adoption of infant son Max in May, Brian is the last member of the group to become a parent. And as the band tours to promote its just-released seventh album, Completely, Brian's bandmates are looking forward to watching the changes fatherhood brings him.

"Brian has a tendency to be totally organized in every area of his life," explains Dan Truman, keyboardist and father of four. "And we're always teasing him about how it's gonna be great to watch him with poopy diapers and a kid that's tearin' up the kitchen as a toddler."

"I gotta tell you," cackles bassist Dana Williams, "it's gonna be pretty entertaining. And I'm gonna be front and center for the show!"

"Let the games begin!" chimes in Jimmy with a laugh. "It's gonna be absolutely hilarious watching him!"

That's pretty big talk from someone who's got less than five months of fatherhood under his belt. The clear parental authority is mandolinist Gene Johnson, who has logged more than 20 years experience - including some recently as a grandfather! His daughter Mattie is the mother of a

1-year-old, and daughter Callie is expecting her first any day now.

"I knew my kids would have kids," declares Gene smiling. "But it doesn't mean I'm completely happy with the moniker. I never thought of my being a 'grandpa.' My grandfather was old!" he chuckles.

But Gene wouldn't trade being a grandfather for anything. "It's a completely different relationship than with a child," he adds. "Becoming a grandfather is something special."

The other guys also cherish special relationships with their kids. Lead singer Marty Roe loves taking his daughters, Isabella, 11, and Sara, 7, to school and attending their dance recitals, soccer practices and swim meets. Recently his family shared a blessed event while on a recent beach vacation.

"We baptized our daughter Isabella to the Lord in the Atlantic Ocean," he recalls fondly. "It was the culmination of a lot of prayers and dreams. And it will remain a great memory for our whole family."

Dana also loves the water and spends as much time as he can boating with his son, Jacob, who has already learned to captain the vessel - at age 6!

Dan likes working in the yard and playing ball with his kids. And recently he took the late-night "red-eye" flight home from the road to watch Benjamin graduate from high school - a milestone that brought tears to Dad's eyes.

Meanwhile Jimmy is trying to figure out just when to share his sky-diving passion with young Max. "Since he can only see four or five feet away now," chuckles Jimmy, "I think I could probably just put a high-powered fan in front of him and achieve the same effect."

The entire band itself has been flying high lately with "Beautiful Mess," its latest Top 10 in a 12-year string of hits and awards that began with "Meet In The Middle" and includes "In A Week Or Two," "You're Gone" and the powerfully moving "One More Day." And the band is receiving great response to Completely, arguably their most ambitious album ever.

"It's got some extry stuff on there," chuckles Marty in describing the album's 13 tunes, including "Rural Philharmonic," an instrumental featuring a 44-piece string section.

"The album title is really self-descriptive," continues Marty. "There's some really traditional stuff, some very over-the-top stuff and things you would definitely recognize as Diamond Rio."

For Brian, the new album and success of "Beautiful Mess" are the icing on the cake for his year.

"I can't even begin to comprehend it all," he declares with a grin. "It's like I have this embarrassment of blessings in my life. It's amazing what happens when you let go and let God take control."

Meanwhile, his bandmates continue to share their fatherhood tips.

"You know what?" says Marty. "As a bachelor, Brian's had the reign over his life for the last several years. My advice to him would be - patience."

Dan describes what's worked for him. "My philosophy has been that we always try to have a family prayer at night. I think maybe that keeps heart into it if you talk and laugh together and have a prayer."

Dana's relationship with Jacob is based on an equally simple philosophy. "It all boils down to attention and love," he confides. "You smother him with attention and love, and let him know that when you say something you mean it, and everything is gonna move along pretty well."

The most important piece of advice?

"Breast feeding!" roars Dana.

"If your wife breast feeds," laughs Marty, "you can't get up and do feedings at night. All you can do is elbow her and go, 'Hey, honey, it's time!' "

And what about those pumps that enable women to store their breast milk - so men are just as able to handle those 2 a.m. feedings? "Whoever invented that thing should be hung up!" bellows Dana with a grin.

All kidding aside, the piece of advice Brian values most comes from the person he's known longer than anyone else.

"My father passed away nearly 20 years ago now," he says quietly. "But my mother to this day says, 'It was my job as your parent to give you roots - and give you wings.' And she succeeded tremendously.

"That's what I want for our child."

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