England's new lead singer (and she's only 13)

Her album is a record-breaking best-seller, she's just won a £2.3m contract, and today she sings for her country. Sadie Gray reports
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The Independent Culture

The singing of songs at rugby grounds is not something normally associated with demure young mezzo-sopranos, but the one who will give voice to the national anthem at the England v France match at Twickenham today is different. Very different.

Faryl Smith is just 13, but already a double record-breaker, and seemingly set to be an even bigger sensation than Charlotte Church when she burst on to the scene aged 11.

Smith's £2.3m recording contract was the biggest ever awarded to someone of her age, and since the resulting album was released a week ago, it has become the fastest-selling solo classical debut in chart history.

She was the runner-up in last year's Britain's Got Talent competition on ITV, when pop Svengali and judge Simon Cowell described her as "one in a million" and offered her a contract with his label. Smith signed instead for his rival, Universal Classical, but said the whopping advance had nothing to do with her decision.

"I've always loved Simon Cowell on TV. But I was a bit unsure about signing with him because he's used to pop singers, and was sure that he'd give me pop songs. But I want a career in singing. I don't want to get a quick-fix album out then vanish.

"I went with them [Universal Classical] because they are a classical label. I want to stay classical until I'm older," she told the Sunday Telegraph. "I wasn't really bothered about the money. I just enjoy the singing."

Smith, daughter of a hairdresser and a health and safety officer, goes to Southfield School for Girls in Northamptonshire, plays football for a local youth side, the Kettering Generals, and says she can rely on family and friends to keep her feet on the ground.

Her career began when she won the Kettering Eisteddfod aged eight, having been entered by her singing teacher. At 10, she appeared at an international eisteddfod in Wales where she met her hero, mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins, who has since become a mentor figure.

Twickenham will be her biggest audience yet. "When they told me, I was, like, '80,000?' I thought: 'How many are at my school? Probably about 1,000. So, 80 times that.'"