Portlander Jimmie Herrod has officially made it to the final round of America’s Got Talent

Herrod, 30, began singing around his home when he was young, but didn’t perform for larger audiences until he joined his middle school’s choir. It was in these performances, he says, that his “love of music was completely confirmed.” More recently, Herrod has been touring with Pink Martini as a regular guest.

Herrod auditioned for the popular NBC competition show singing “Tomorrow” from Annie, which judge Simon Cowell dryly deemed the “worst song in the world.” But Herrod’s vocals ended up impressing the judges so much that he got a standing ovation from them along with the audience, and the coveted golden buzzer from Sofia Vergara (a one-time device allotted to each judge that sends a performer straight to the show's live rounds). Cowell, known for being the most critical judge, said the song was no longer his “worst song anymore,” and that Herrod’s performance was “unbelievable.”

Prior to his success on AGT, Herrod had auditioned for other competitions such as American Idol and was contacted by The Voice, only to be turned down or not included. He was skeptical of the idea that he was going to performing on America’s Got Talent up until he had his plane ticket in hand. The reality of the situation fully hit him, he says, after he walked onto stage for the first time and saw the judges. "When you actually walk on that stage, and you see the judges, you really are like, ‘Wow, I’m actually here,’” Herrod says. "It’s kind of crazy in particular because, you know, we’ve all seen Simon on TV for so long."

From the moment he set foot on stage for the first time, he has been a favorite, earning over 11 million views of his audition on AGT’s YouTube channel and winning an online public vote that guaranteed him a spot in the finale.

Herrod says it's both surreal and meaningful that people want to see and hear him perform enough to vote him straight through to the finale. “It was affirming, you know, about what people felt like I’d done in the competition thus far," he says.

Regardless of if he wins on Wednesday night, when the results of the public vote are announced, Herrod says his major goal for the future is to hold down top billing for a stage show—think An Evening with Jimmie Herrod. "Win or lose, [America's Got Talent] has really provided me a lot more opportunity to [do] exactly that,” he says, by giving him the visibility and fan support he’d need to achieve that goal.

Asked if he wants to request anything of Portlanders and other viewers heading into the finale, Herrod says: “I would say that I’m super grateful to have gotten so much support from people I haven’t even known and I don’t even know … that has been very touching.”

You can watch his final performance for America’s Got Talent tonight, September 14, at 8 p.m. on NBC, with results to follow on Wednesday, September 15.

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