X Factor hopeful Josh Daniel says the experience still doesn’t seem real as he edges closer to the live finals.
The 21-year-old, from Billingham, sailed through to the six-chair challenge stage of the contest at the weekend, making sure the first thing he did was ring his mum Dawn.
Now it’s the job of his mentor, BBC Radio 1 presenter Nick Grimshaw, to choose which six boys will make it to judges’ houses.
Josh, a car mechanic, said: “As brutal as that process looks on television, it’s even worse in real life – it’s absolutely horrible.
“By this point in the contest, everyone has made friends, but when this challenge gets going it’s so harsh. You could take your friend’s chair or they could take one from you and it’s so hard.
“As soon as I knew I was through to the six-chair challenge, I rang my mam to tell her. She was over the moon and just didn’t say anything audible for the first few minutes, she just screamed.
“She’s supported me since the very beginning and been there at the pubs when I’ve been singing to two people and at the bigger gigs and more exciting moments.
“This whole thing still doesn’t seem real for me, I don’t really know how to digest it, but my mam is loving it.
“She just says she’s so proud of how well I’m doing but also how well I’m coming across as a person on the show. She raised me on her own so that’s a huge compliment for her.”
Josh knows if he’s made it through the six-chair challenge and to the next round of the contest, but is staying tight-lipped over what’s happened.
This whole thing still doesn’t seem real for me, I don’t really know how to digest it, but my mam is loving it.Josh Daniel
When he first appeared on the show, he moved the judges – including Simon Cowell – to tears by giving an emotional audition.
He took to the stage to give a moving rendition of Labrinth’s Jealous and told the judges the lyrics were special to him and that the song reminded him of his best friend, Thomas Woolley, who passed away in 2013, just a year after accompanying Josh to his first audition for the show.
Josh said: “I think he’d be absolutely over the moon that I’ve got this far in the contest. He was really into photography and he would have loved to be here with me taking pictures of everything I was doing along the way.
“I’ve been making sure I do it, because that’s what he would have done. I take pictures of everywhere I go and everyone I meet.
“I also feel like I have to enjoy everything I’m doing twice as much and because he never got the chance to live his life to the fullest, I feel like I’ve got a responsibility to live mine twice as much.”
The six-chair challenge will be shown over the next three Sundays on ITV1.