Good Charlotte frontman Joel Madden has been playing the fame game ever since his band broke through with 2002's The Young and the Hopeless. He's toured the world, dated celebrities, launched a clothing line and duked it out with the paparazzi. And yet, none of those things could prepare him for what happened January 11, when he and girlfriend Nicole Richie welcomed their daughter, Harlow, into the world.
"Being a father is nothing you can plan for. You've got to take it one day at a time, and there's no manual or anything like that," Madden told MTV News last week. "It's not a conscious change, it just happens to you all of a sudden. We had Harlow, and suddenly our priorities changed. We've both done a lot in our lives, had a lot of fun, but now it's time to be parents, which is a different kind of fun. The priority is our daughter and the kind of family we build around her."
So without a manual, how has Madden adjusted to life as a father? Well, so far, so good ("She's 7 weeks old and amazing. She laughs and plays already," he beamed), though he's quick to admit that he's been getting a lot of help from Richie, whom he calls the "best mom he's ever seen."
"If anything, I'm the parent who gives the baby whatever she wants," he laughed. "Nicole has her on a schedule. She knows exactly what she needs. I just spoil her. If she's crying, I'll take her out of the crib and give her whatever she wants, so it's a good balance."
And though Harlow made her worldwide debut in this week's People magazine (as the subject of a photo shoot worth a reported $1 million), Madden maintains that he and Richie are trying everything within their power to make sure their daughter will grow up as far removed from the Hollywood scene as possible — which means they've quickly adapted to life as shut-ins, something that has taken a bit of getting used to.
"We're very serious about raising her the right way. ... We're both very hands-on about our daughter, because she's the priority," Madden said. "I still am able to go out occasionally. I'm still able to DJ, and [Good Charlotte] will be going on tour, but for the most part, I don't go out with Harlow to places where I think that she could be put in danger. That aspect of Hollywood isn't a part of my life. You have to respect what it is, but you don't have to participate in it."
And though he's settling into life as a dad, he's still determined to make music with his Good Charlotte brethren, though it might be different than anything he's done previously. He and his brother Benji are still in the very early stages of writing a follow-up to last year's Good Morning Revival, and if fans had issues with that album's rather mature spin, well, they should prepare themselves for an even more grown-up batch of songs this time around. Get ready for Joel Madden: Role Model.
"We just started writing a record, and I'm sure [becoming a father] is going to affect the way I write and what I write about. It's made me think differently about life," Madden said. "It's definitely made me think about my fans a little more, because they're people's kids, so I care what they think. And I care what I'm saying to them, because I want people to think about what they're saying to my child. ... So it makes me care about what I'm doing a little bit more. And it makes you think about other people too."