CAITLYN Shadbolt keeps pinching herself, as making it through to X Factor's top 12 contestants and first live show on Sunday evening is beginning to feel like a surreal dream.
The Gympie singer received the life-changing news last night during the show's second instalment of the judges' home visits.
Caitlyn was in New York for the jaw-dropping news when star judge Ronan Keating sat her down on a couch for a chat.
Keating's decision was revealed after Caitlyn had earlier performed in front of hit singer John Legend - shown to audiences the night before.
It was easily one of the most tense moments in Caitlyn's life.
"We went in one-by-one to have a chat with Ronan and I cannot explain how nervous I was," she said. "My heart was beating out of my chest and my hands were shaking."
Caitlyn was hopeful she would make the live phase of the hit show, but remained realistic.
"I walked in hoping for a 'yes' but was prepared for a 'no'," she said.
"The other five girls (on Ronan's team) were so talented, so to cut down to three was near impossible."
As soon as Caitlyn could breathe again, she immediately got on the phone and contacted her mum Helen, waiting nervously on the other side of the globe.
Helen, quickly attracting her own fan base for her enthusiasm and support for her daughter, tested the capabilities of the phone's speaker.
"Mum flipped out!" Caitlyn said.
"I phoned her straight away and she just squealed loudly.
"The boys were fishing so I was only able to tell her at first."
Securing the deal was Caitlyn's ability to convince Keating she was ready to tackle the live phase of the show.
After performing an upbeat audition song, Caitlyn said she wanted to show more of her "emotional range" in singing Demi Lovato's Skyscraper in front of Legend.
Legend remarked on the singer's heartfelt performance in swapping notes with Keating.
"I wanted to show my emotional side," Caitlyn said.
"Previously I had shown them the happy and energetic side of myself but I wanted to show what I could do."
Gympie's girl with the golden tonsils, the talk of the town in the shopping aisles and at water coolers, is "stoked" to now be one of three girls in Keating's team heading towards the live shows.
"Ronan understands me and gets what I want to do with country music," Caitlyn said.
Caitlyn's first live performance is this Sunday but looming 24 hours later is the first live elimination.
"It's a scary thought," she said.
"I would hate to make it all that way only to get kicked off the first week. That would be devastating.
"I want to get past the first elimination and then take each week as it comes."
Caitlyn told The Gympie Times she was "overwhelmed and grateful" for the hometown support and had been reading the kind words of support online.
Watch X Factor live on Sunday, 6.30pm on Channel 7 and then vote to support Caitlyn Shadbolt.
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