January 07, 2016 01:50 PM

When Jordan Smith sings about love, he’s singing from experience.

On New Year’s Day, The Voice‘s new champion got down on bended knee and proposed to longtime girlfriend Kristen Denny – a joyous milestone he reveled in at the People’s Choice Awards on Wednesday.

“It feels wonderful,” he told PEOPLE on the show’s red carpet in Los Angeles. “We’ve been together for three and a half years, so this has been a long time coming. It’s something that we both wanted for a very long time. Now we’re reaching a point in our lives where it just feels right.”

Jordan Smith and Kristen Denny
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The romantic development comes mere weeks after Smith’s singles from NBC’s singing competition dominated the iTunes chart. Now with No. 1s and The Voice title under his belt, Smith reflected on his thrilling mix of personal and professional news with glee.

“[My engagement] has been the cherry on top of all the other wonderful things that have happened in the past year,” he shared. “It’s just incredible to take that next step with someone that you know is your person.”

Even sweeter: Denny became her man’s biggest cheerleader before America fell in love with his stunning pipes.

“She’s been there every step of the way,” Smith explains. “She’s seen me at my worst and she saw things like this in me long before I saw them in myself. It’s really nice to be on this journey together.”

Denny’s career kept her from joining Smith at the People’s Choice Awards and watching him take the stage, a reality Smith respects.

“She’s a speech therapist for kids and she works with special needs kids, which I think is so wonderful,” he told PEOPLE. “She’s at home [in Kentucky] working this week so she couldn’t be here, but she’s going to be watching from afar.”

Just like millions of other Americans, Denny saw Smith make his award show debut with a performance of Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful.” He was joined by hitmaker David Foster, who played the piano and will collaborate with Smith on his first album.

“He’s a genius,” Smith said of Foster. “He really understands me. We’re really similar – the way we think, our arranging ideas, our taste for music. Tonight, I’m excited to just stand there stress free, be able to sing the song and enjoy it because I know that he has my back.”

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