Brandon Elder was born to a very young, single mother. Unsure what to do with her baby, she traded him in for a car. He was later adopted by his step-grandmother, Patricia Elder when he was 10-months-old. Patricia raised him as her own. She gifted him his first guitar when he was a teen, and he has been diligently learning and practicing on his own ever since.

When Patricia fell ill with cancer, Brandon dropped out of college to be by her side. He played on his guitar in between treatments to help soothe her pain. He was with her until the moment she passed away, and her death became the inspiration for a song he later wrote, called “Gone.”

This song is the one he performs for his “American Idol” audition –  it was a risky choice! The judges admitted that original songs could be nightmarish to present, the content not resonating with the judges or not showcasing the singer’s voice well enough. This time around, however, the judges were bowled over with Brandon’s voice and presence – his story was one for the books, too.

Click below to catch Brandon’s incredible story and soulful performance that sets him apart from the rest.