From dawn to noon most days, Dave Grohl gets in some quality father-daughter time with his 18-month-old, Violet. "She sits on my lap and watches the bunnies in the yard as she drinks her bottle," says Grohl. After playtime on the grounds of their Encino, Calif., home and a nap at 9:30, Violet hangs out with Dad until he goes to work and his wife, Jordyn, takes over. "She's on a routine, man," says Grohl. "The schedule's hardcore."

Yes, this doting dad who "could go on all day" about sleep training is the same Dave Grohl who at 21 became a hard-living rock god as the drummer in pioneering grunge band Nirvana before finding even greater fame as the singer-guitarist for the Foo Fighters. As he heads out on tour to promote the Grammy-winning band's new album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, Grohl, 38, marvels at the shift in priorities since he and his bandmates all became family men. (Drummer Taylor Hawkins, 35, has a newborn son, and bassist Nate Mendel, 38, and guitarist Chris Shiflett, 36, have toddlers.) "We don't talk about how much we drank last night," says Grohl. "It's how much sleep we got, how much sleep the baby got, diaper rash, formula. We used to go on the road for three months at a time. It's a struggle for me to leave for even 12 days. I realized the life I always imagined beginning once the band ended has to begin now."

Grohl can pinpoint the moment that "changed everything": Hawkins' August 2001 painkillers overdose. "I'd seen that kind of thing happen before," says Grohl, referring to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, who killed himself in 1994 after a struggle with drug addiction. "But to have it happen again to someone you consider your brother is enough to make you just want to put the guitar down and go home."

Hawkins recovered after two days in a coma, and while the band took a much-needed break, Grohl called Jordyn Blum, 31, an MTV producer he'd previously dated casually. Back then, "I had decided I didn't want to get serious about a relationship because I was single and I was running around—I was free," he admits. "But that was the first thing I thought about when Taylor came out of it: I had met the woman that I should marry and have children with and I hadn't talked to her in months. She said, 'You're the last person I thought I'd ever hear from again.' And I said, 'Hey, let's go to dinner.'"

Two years later Grohl and Blum were married, and in April 2006 Violet was born to a lullaby version of the Beatles' "In My Life"—the same song that was played at Cobain's memorial. Odes to Jordyn and Violet are all over Grohl's lyrics, he says; "Come Alive," on the new album, is about Violet's birth. "I've heard all the love songs, I've heard all the angry songs," says Hawkins. "I've never heard anything like this."

There's one other woman in Grohl's life who's a great inspiration: his mother, Virginia, 70, a retired English teacher. Grohl and his sister Lisa, now 41, lived with their mother in Virginia after she and their journalist dad, James, 68, split up. Despite the divorce, "I had a wonderful childhood," Grohl says. "I had these great parents who were both very creative and loving. I would go to jazz clubs with my mom. We were friends." And they still are. "My mom was just on a 10-day tour with us," he says. "There are times where I'll walk upstairs after the show, and my mom will be sitting on the couch with Billie Joe [Armstrong] from Green Day, drinking a pint of beer. She's totally cool."

It's the same kind of relationship Grohl hopes to have with Violet. They're already sharing music. "She loves the Amy Winehouse record," he says. "It's all about the 'Rehab' song. If she hears 'Try to make me go to rehab,' Violet will go, 'No no no.' I know, it's a little weird, but it's really cute!"