Toronto Idol: Cowell signs 10-year-old sensation
A 10-year-old Toronto girl is being heralded as the next Justin Bieber, after music mogul Simon Cowell signed her to his record label after hearing her on YouTube.
Heather Russell is already receiving international acclaim for her soulful voice and ability to write her own music. One commentator has said she sings about eating ice cream with the voice and wisdom of a 40-year-old.
Cowell, the former "American Idol" judge and creator of "The X Factor," gave Heather a contract after former Canadian Idol judge Zack Werner tipped him off to her songs posted online, according to the U.K.'s Sun newspaper.
A spokesman told the paper that Cowell was hooked from the moment he saw her.
Mother Monica Cidade posted Heather's first clip on YouTube less than a year ago. In that time, her music has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, from the hauntingly inspirational "You're Beautiful" to "Every Step of the Way," with her father James Russell accompanying her on guitar.
Heather has already worked with New Jersey-based producer Rob Fusari, the producer who helped launch Lady Gaga and hit the top of the charts with Destiny's Child and Will Smith.
She has been compared to Bieber because of her age, Canadian heritage and her breakout on YouTube, but she sounds more like the next Mariah Carey or Alicia Keyes.
An online profile says Heather's musical influences are Keyes, Prince, Justin Timberlake and Queen.
"At eight years old Heather wrote her first song called ‘Beautiful' on the piano," reads the profile.
"At nine, Ashton Kutcher tweeted about her to Demi Moore, Ellen DeGeneres wants her on the show and Grammy winning music producer Rob Fusari has taken her under his wing.
"Stay tuned for more from Heather."
Heather isn't the only young Canadian talent getting props recently. Ten-year-old Maria Aragon of Winnipeg rocketed to fame on Thursday after Lady Gaga posted a YouTube video of her singing her hit "Born This Way" on YouTube.
"Can't stop crying watching this," Gaga told her 8.25 million Twitter followers. "This is why I make music. She is the future."
By mid-afternoon Thursday Aragon's cover had been viewed 60,000 times. By Friday morning, more than 1.1 million people had watched the clip.
"I was kind of surprised because I know I have a lot of support from the people who watched my videos on YouTube. I'm glad it got to Lady Gaga," Aragon told CTV News Channel on Friday.
"It was one of my goals in life to be a singer. I like a lot of different artists, but (Lady Gaga) is really unique."