Bemidji singer Courtney Gunsalus earns 'golden ticket' on 'American Idol'
BEMIDJI, Minn. -- In the end, Courtney "Guns" Gunsalus had a million-watt smile to match her million-watt voice.
The 24-year-old Bemidji singer earned a "golden ticket" in Wednesday's episode of "American Idol" as the three judges -- Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. -- gave her the "yes" she needed to advance in the reality singing competition.
In "Idol," which is now in its 14th season, successful auditioners earn a "golden ticket," which qualifies them for Hollywood Week, the next round of the reality singing competition.
"It's going to be so different than Minnesota," Gunsalus tells the video cameras after earning her ticket, "a lot warmer and I won't have to deal with the snow hopefully."
Unlike most of the contestants who stayed back on the show's logo, a few feet from the judging table, Gunsalus, who performs as Courtney Guns, crept up closer to the three stars as she sang.
"Can you do the (next) song sitting on Harry?" Urban joked.
"That was close," Lopez agreed.
Gunsalus offered a quick apology and said she never meant to make her feel uncomfortable, flashed a smile and punctuated it with a genuine laugh.
"After I got so close (to the judges' table), I didn't know what to think," she said of her chances. "I was just hoping they would like my personality and like my voice. I felt like I was on a teeter-totter, it could go either way."
She watched the show from inside Schummer's Backyard Bar & Grill in Bemidji, where dozens of family and friends cheered her on and showed their support.
"It was cool to see," she said after her segment aired, "to see what parts they used and what parts they didn't."
She went to Minneapolis to audition for the show this past summer in what turned out to be a 16-hour day, with several other auditions before she even went in to sing for the judges.
Gunsalus walked into the audition room by welcoming the judges to Minnesota.
"Well thank you so much," Urban said. "That is a Minnesotan right there. They're so friendly."