From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
When Dwight Yoakam moved to Los Angeles more than 30 years ago, he found himself drawn to the Hollywood Hills. "Being born in Appalachia, maybe it's part of my DNA," he muses, remembering his mother's reaction the first time she visited: Upon seeing a house on stilts rising from the rolling hillside, "she said, 'Lord have mercy, it looks like a hollow from southeast Kentucky!'"

Seventeen years ago Yoakam started work on his own Hollywood hollow: After tearing down an original 1930s ranch structure, he spent the next 18 months lovingly designing a sunny art-filled Spanish colonial-style home with "a Mediterranean vernacular"-and made it his sanctuary. "I picked every door hinge, every piece of tile, every lamp," he says. "I was here every day during construction. It was my job site."

It was in this house that Yoakam wrote 5 of his 17 studio albums, including his latest, 3 Pears, which comes seven years after his last one. "It wasn't by design; it's just how the world shook out," says the two-time Grammy winner, who spent much of that unofficial hiatus performing live and acting. (He currently has a recurring role on FX's comedy Wilfred.) Then, two years ago, he got together with alternative-music darling Beck, who coproduced two tracks on Pears. Yoakam helmed the rest, sometimes writing in his kitchen or singing in his cavernous upstairs office. "My artwork kind of oscillates around me when I'm writing songs," he says. "There's a bit of musical frenzy in this record. It's about having fun and rediscovering love." Yoakam himself says he's "very happy" in a year-and-a-half relationship with his girlfriend. "Love is something we have to seek out every day inside ourselves."

The 5,900-sq.-ft. home helps too. "It's nothing grandiose, but it's spacious and a comfortable house for me," he says. "I built this place to stay in and live out life."