American Idol viewers remember what Francisco Martin looked like when he first auditioned for the show. The California native had as strong of a voice as any in the competition, winning over all of the judges and most notably Luke Bryan. Except one thing was holding him back: his nerves.
From needing to undergo some breathing lessons care of Lionel Richie that day, Martin earned a Golden Ticket to being one of the Top 7 finalists with a shot to win it all and the journey has been an astounding one. If his name is announced as the winner by Ryan Seacrest tonight, the 19-year-old said it would be a "total shock," further sharing how he's not even sure what he would do if that's the case. "I'd probably go nuts and collapse on the floor," Martin told PopCulture.com exclusively. "I feel very content with where I'm at. I was able to inspire others during this journey and that means the world to me. All of us have worked so hard to get to where we’re at and pushed ourselves to the limit."
Martin is joined by six others who are vying to the next Idol. But if the judge's comments mean anything when viewers at home do their live voting on Sunday, Martin finds himself in a very good place. Bryan, who has been his biggest supporter from the jump, called his performance of Leon Bridges' "River" better than the original record. His Disney song, "You'll Be in My Heart" was also a huge win for the singer as Perry — who has been equally as strong with fellow contestant Louis Knight — suggests that what Martin gave audiences at the end "is kind of what [she] wanted from Louis Knight."
The teenager adds how it's just a "blessing" to receive remarks from the judges like that. "I don't even know how to put into words on how thankful I am to even be able to speak with them," he said. "They genuinely care for us as artists and truly want us to succeed. That's the best part about speaking with them. It's not a scary feeling of 'What're they going to say?' It’s more of a down to earth conversation that you never want to end."
In regards to those early nerves, Martin says he has seen himself grow every week throughout this process. He explains that he found his confidence again and calls this whole transformation of his on the show "one of my greatest achievements." Now his newfound confidence has him not just on the cusp of potentially being the next Idol, but also on the verge to carving out his own musical career when this wraps up. "It honestly hasn't hit me yet at all," Martin said. "I'm just really grateful to be standing alongside such uniquely talented artists. We all have a great shot at winning this, that's the amazing part."
America can tune into see who becomes the next American Idol at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. For the freshest in reality TV coverage, follow PopCulture.com for all your Idol coverage, along with the latest on your favorite contestants from years past and new. Keep it locked to our official Twitter @PopCulture too, for the latest updates in the world of entertainment.