Cowell signs 10-year-old spotted on YouTube

She is only 10 years old and has already been hailed as the next Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber rolled into one. Now, after taking the internet by a storm, the Canadian has become the latest talent to be signed by Simon Cowell.

Heather Russell, who cites her musical influences as Prince, Justin Timberlake, Queen and Alicia Keyes, is not new to the limelight. She wrote her first song on the piano at eight, and now, after posting a clip of her single "Every Step of the Way" on YouTube last July, has attracted the attention of Cowell, the music mogul and American Idol creator, and Rob Fusari, the producer who helped launch Lady Gaga.

In a rise to fame that has already been compared with fellow Canadian teen idol Justin Bieber, who was discovered four years ago on YouTube at the age of 12, Russell reportedly caught Cowell's eye from the moment they were introduced.

"Simon just loved her. He said she was amazingly-talented from the first time he saw her," a spokesman from Syco UK, the company founded by Cowell, told The Independent.

Russell first gained attention when she auditioned for an amateur singing contest at the age of eight. Despite being too young to enter the contest, the musical director, John Santos, worked with with Russell for almost a year.

"As soon as I heard her, me and my wife said 'Wow'," Santos said. "I thought she was incredible and I still do – she is a diamond in the rough, with a very bright future."

Less than a year after Russell's mother, Monica Cidade, posted the clip of her daughter singing with her father online, the video had attracted more than 100,000 views.

Her talent then brought her to the attention of Zack Werner, the Canadian Idol judge and founder of Venus Records. He says he managed Russell unofficially until Cowell swooped. "Simon will put his stamp on her, but there is something rare about this child. She is a natural entertainer and sings for all the right reasons."

For Russell's mother, her daughter's success comes as no surprise. "We're more than excited, but Heather deserves it. She is the hardest working 10-year-old I know. She is committed and real," she said.