Three performances in. Almost 2,000 seconds of airtime. A collective 2.3 million views on YouTube.
And Will Breman is just getting started.
Yes, the Santa Barbara singer-songwriter was back Monday night for another performance on “The Voice,” this time taking on the knockout round. After going head-to-head with teammate Zoe Upkins, Mr. Breman came out on top once again.
“It’s unreal man, it’s unreal,” said Mr. Breman on the show, tearing up. “I don’t know what to think.”
Following Ms. Upkin’s moving ballad, Mr. Breman danced his way across the stage, leaving his guitar behind for another show. While a hard decision, Mr. Breman felt his song choice, Ed Sheeran’s “I Don’t Care,” warranted his characteristic moves.
“After the battles, some of my dancing was up for debate,” said Mr. Breman. “But if a song needs it, I’ll just have to dance my face off.”
Mr. Breman even got some coaching from Team Kelly contestants Chelsea and Myla, who together make up the duo Hello Sunday. As the resident 14-year-olds on set, the pair gave Mr. Breman some much needed advice.
“I was looking for a way to one up some of the funny things I was doing on stage, so I went to the experts, our millennial duo,” said Mr. Breman. “They said, ‘Will, you should hit the whip,’ and I followed up on my promise.”
For mega-mentor Taylor Swift, these moves made Mr. Breman uniquely his own.
“Will is such an interesting performer because he’s really got his own thing, it’s like adorable,” said Ms. Swift after rehearsal. “You know he’s doing (this shuffling), these anxious-looking movements, and I just thought it suited him. It was really cool.”
Before coming into practice, Mr. Breman didn’t have a clue he’d be seeing one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Starstruck, Mr. Breman looked at his teammate in awe, in part due to Ms. Swift’s talent, the other from her height.
“All I could think was, ‘Wow, she’s really tall,’ ” said Mr. Breman. “She’s taller than me, and I’m six-feet tall. She also gives really warm hugs.”
Apart from her demeanor, Ms. Swift’s words encouraged Mr. Breman to follow his instincts.
“She definitely remarked on the fact that my way of being unique is unique to me, and somehow it works,” said Mr. Breman. “She wanted me know that I have this one thing that’s working, and that I should embrace the awkwardness.”
Mr. Breman made his song choice with that awkwardness in mind. In some respects, picking ‘I Don’t Care’ let Mr. Breman emulate Ed Sheeran, one of his biggest influences. In another way, the lyrics spoke to who Mr. Breman is and how he feels every day.
“Growing up with Asperger’s, I can get socially awkward sometimes,” said Mr. Breman. “I relate to what the song is about. Parties are awkward.”
Since sharing his story, Mr. Breman received hundreds of messages from people with friends and family on the spectrum, or those that are on it themselves. With this kind of influence, Mr. Breman hopes he can change the way the world thinks about Asperger’s.
While Mr. Breman is grateful for the support, his experience in the public eye hasn’t been easy. Fans have reached out to him everywhere from social media to the streets, but the sheer amount of responses left him feeling overwhelmed.
“Because of the propensity of it all, my anxiety and depression have been going through the roof,” said Mr. Breman. “It’s just been a little hard to deal with.”
In the week leading up to his performance, Mr. Breman felt this anxiety building up. Higher stakes and more time between rounds meant higher pressure and more nerves. When it came time to perform, Mr. Breman was physically shaking.
“I could have done better,” said Mr. Breman. “In the moment, I thought my anxiety impacted my performance, like I held myself back.”
Being this far in the competition, each round is harder than the last, making the comparison game easier to play. This only made Mr. Breman doubt himself more.
“I actually got very fatalistic with it,” said Mr. Breman. “I thought there was a very good chance that (Zoe) had it in the bag, and I had to be okay with that.”
Still, watching the episode on Monday, Mr. Breman realized he was his own worst critic.
“In hindsight you think, ‘Why did I do that?’ ” he said.
“If I got this far, why doubt myself?”
Preparing for the next round, Mr. Breman wants to do a better job of getting out of his head. This means focusing on his day-to-day life, getting exercise, sleeping well, and eating right.
“I know I have a huge amount of support back at home in Santa Barbara and the greater 805, so having that at the front of my head is huge,” said Mr. Breman. “It’s just about being prepared and hoping that words.”
Above all else, Mr. Breman needs to remind himself that he has done what he wanted to do – turn a chair. While he’d love to stay on the show as long as possible, remaining humble is his first priority.
“No matter what people say at home, or on the news, or in the comments section, I proved to myself that I’m good enough to be on the show,” said Mr. Breman. “And no one can take that away from me.”