A young construction worker hailing from Michigan made it all the way to the American Idol audition stage during Sunday night's episode (March 17). Though his voice impressed the judges, it was the story of resilience and personal growth that really put Dave Fio's audition over the top.

Fio chose to cover Jelly Roll's "Save Me" during his audition, and before he began to sing, he explained how Jelly's story of triumph over personal obstacles fueled his own recent transformation.

"One day my cousin sent me a link and said American Idol auditions were coming up," Fio recounts. He filmed his tape, and as he was reviewing it afterwards, he realized how much he disliked the way he looked.

"I had bags under my eyes. Face was puffy. I didn't recognize the person. It was just this switch in my head," he recounted. "I thought, I'm not gonna get on American Idol and take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and feel unhappy about myself."

With 12 weeks to go until in-person auditions, Fio immediately got to work. "That day I went sober, I hit the gym, I threw the bad food in the house away. It's been about 12 weeks and I'm down 65 pounds," he says. "Got me some department store clothes. I'm new boot goofin'."

"I don't know what you sound like, but I need you in the crew," judge Katy Perry said as the judges applauded Fio's hard work.

Fio's gravelly, quavering rendition of "Save Me" was rough around the edges -- so much so that the judges wavered on whether to send him through to the next round of competition.

In particular, judge Lionel Richie felt Fio's vocal wasn't yet quite developed enough to withstand the competition of American Idol. "What I would recommend is, put a little bit more work in," he cautioned the young contestant, saying he needed more practice.

But Perry was compelled by Fio's story, arguing that he'd already proved his capabilities for self-transformation. That meant that it came down to Luke Bryan to decide whether or not Fio advanced to the next round -- and the young singer's story of hope and perseverance was too powerful for the country coach to resist.

"Alright, Dave, you're going on a journey. It's a 'yes' from me," Bryan said, and the judges officially handed Fio his Golden Ticket to Hollywood.

American Idol airs on Sunday and Monday nights on ABC. Episodes are available to stream on Hulu.

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Gallery Credit: Sterling Whitaker

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