"That person spent most of her nights in bars until the lights came on," King tells PEOPLE

By Jeff Nelson
Updated May 25, 2016 05:05 PM
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Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

On her latest single, Elle King says she’s not “America’s Sweetheart” – but between her recent engagement and chart success, she’s certainly living her own kind of fairy tale.

Last year, the bluesy rocker, 26, broke onto the Billboard charts with runaway hit “Ex’s and Oh’s,” and King admits she once embodied the hard-partying maneater she sang of.

But since the two-time Grammy nominee met Andrew “Fergie” Ferguson, 32, in January, she’s a new woman.

“Being in love has changed me,” says King, who just completed her biggest headlining tour to date and will hit the road to open for the Dixie Chicks for a string of dates in September.

“As a single girl, as ‘Ex’s and Oh’s,’ Elle King, that person spent most of her nights in bars until the lights came on,” adds King. “I can out-drink and out-party the best of ’em, but it’s nice to not want or need to do that anymore. It’s really very comforting.”

The Love Stuff star’s whirlwind romance began in London earlier this year, when she met Ferguson.

For more on Elle King and her wedding plans, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.

“We both just knew,” she says. “It’s cheesy, but when you know, you know.”

The couple has John Lennon and his muse Yoko Ono to thank in part for their quick connection.

“The first time we were hanging out, I said that I think that ‘Oh Yoko!’ is the greatest love song ever written. The next day, I didn’t get on my flight, and I told him I had to see him one more time before I left London,” says King.

The pair met for lunch, when, “All of a sudden, ‘Oh Yoko!’ starts playing, and I was like, ‘Do you hear that?’ It turns up, just for that song, and he was like, ‘There’s something here. You and I have to be together.'”

The next thing either of them knew, “I flew home, he put in his two weeks notice [at work], and a week later, he was living in America,” says King.

“And a week after that, he proposed,” she adds of Ferguson’s Feb. 6 drop-to-the-knee moment under the Golden Gate Bridge.

With a busy touring schedule, King says she cherishes quiet moments with her man at their home in Brooklyn, where they live down the street from her mom, model London King, and step-dad. (Her father is the comedian Rob Schneider.)

“Family’s the most important thing to me,” says the singer, who adds that in their down-time, they enjoy just eating and watching TV. “Me and my fiancé are pretty low-key – we don’t really do a lot of Hollywood stuff.”

And while she’s a changed woman, King insists she still knows how to have a good time.

“I don’t want to say that I don’t party at all because I do – my band and I celebrate every night. But I used to make fun of headliners and be like, ‘Why don’t they want to go out after [the show]? And then it’s like, ‘Oh, s—.’ You get tired,” she says.

Even so, King says she’s in a happier, healthier place – and that new perspective may show in her new music.

“I feel like I no longer have to put myself in detrimental or unhealthy situations just to write a song: I’ve done enough dumb s— that I can pull from,” she says. “It’s really fun to realize that this is what I can do for my job. It’s just a real treat.”