After Divorce, Nick Lachey's Rocky Year Ends on Upswing

If Kevin Federline wants to know how to handle life after marriage to a more famous woman, he might want to turn to Nick Lachey for some guidance and inspiration.

Almost exactly a year after the announcement that Lachey and Jessica Simpson were divorcing, the 33-year-old former boy-band star is up for an American Music Award, thanks to the success of his hit album, "What's Left of Me."

"Any time you're even nominated in one of those categories you've already won, so to speak," Lachey said. "So I'm very, very happy and honored, and we'll just cross our fingers and see what happens."

Lachey is competing against Sean Paul and Kanye West in the Pop/Rock category for Favorite Male Artist. It's quite a comeback for a singer who was sloughed off as someone who was riding the coattails of his ex-wife.

Indeed, "What's Left of Me" is a victory commercially and artistically. Lachey's first solo album, "SoulO," was dismissed by critics as little more than a rehash of his frothy sound with 98 Degrees. And the album, released in 2003, when he and Simpson were riding high as reality TV show stars, barely scratched the Billboard 200 list for top albums.

On Lachey's second album, he writes and sings about the pain of divorce. And while many say he and Simpson turned their marriage into a joke by inviting cameras into their home, the new album casts the singer as a man who's been hurt.

'I'd Open for Britney'

Just a glance at the album's song titles -- eight of the 12 written by the singer -- is enough to tell you what's on the man's mind. It features numbers like, "Outside Looking In," "I Can't Hate You Anymore," "Ghosts," and, of course, the hit track, "What's Left of Me," which peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard chart.

"Speaking about things like I did on this album -- things like heartbreak and relationships ending -- are things people go through each and every day, but that doesn't make them any easier to experience," Lachey said.

"As an artist, it's always special to know the things you're writing about comes from your heart, and that you're reaching out to touch other people's hearts. That's what I've heard from fans and from audiences."

At least thus far, Lachey has had much more success than Federline, who has seen his recent tour dissolve into a series of canceled shows.

His album, "Playing With Fire," opened at No. 151 on the Billboard chart and quickly sank, even while news of Britney Spears filing for divorce dominated entertainment headlines.

Spears and Lachey have more than a little in common. Both retained hotshot Hollywood divorce lawyer Laura Wasser, and both record for Jive Records.

Lachey is even reaching out to Spears, on a professional matter. Once she releases her comeback record, he is eager to tour with her.

"A joint tour would be a Jive Records dream right there," he said. "I'd open for Britney."

On the personal front, the singer has been dating 26-year-old MTV host Vanessa Minillo for the last several months, but he's not eager to talk about his personal life these days.

It seems he's saving that for his music. As he told Star magazine several weeks ago, "I'm not making that mistake again."