American Idol's newest season is still in its auditions stage, but Luke Bryan already has a favorite contestant: 19-year-old San Francisco Bay Area resident Francisco Martin.

"Francisco is my frontrunner," Bryan tells People, "but, hey, as America starts voting and the rounds get going, you never know what’s going to happen."

Martin's audition aired during Feb. 16's Idol Season 18 premiere, with the teenager wowing Bryan and his fellow judges, Lionel Richie and Katy Perry -- but only after they helped calm his nerves. Viewers got to see Bryan and Richie welcoming a visibly intimidated Martin to the audition room and offering him some encouragement before he belted out a cover of Maggie Rogers' "Alaska."

"Francisco, just from the second he walked in, he was so nervous. He was literally freaking out on camera. And, you know, I jumped up out of my seat and calmed him down," Bryan recounts. "But what I don’t know is that this kid is about to blow my mind with his performance. I’m just trying to keep him from fainting. So we get out there, loosen him up, and then he delivers this amazing audition."

That, Bryan says, is the "cool" part about American Idol: The judges and the show's team want the best for the hopeful contestants who show up at each audition.

"We don’t want these kids to come in and be so nervous that they blow their audition," Bryan says. "This kid was so nervous that he was about to have a bad audition. We probably would’ve sent him away. But now I think he might win the thing."

In fact, Bryan has said previously, he's found himself getting pretty emotionally attached to some of the Idol contestants he's met throughout his three seasons as a judge on the TV singing competition. “I didn’t realize that when I signed up for this that I would lay in bed at night wondering about these kids and praying for their well-being,” the country star admits.

American Idol Season 18 auditions continue on Sunday night (Feb. 23). The show airs at 8PM ET on ABC.

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