DIANA Vickers may be in the spotlight at the moment - but one of her best friends has beaten her to a recording deal.

Eighteen-year-old Charlotte O’Connor, who attended Westholme School with the X Factor finalist, has signed a four album contract with Columbia Records and will release her first record next year.

She learned that the prestigious label wanted to sign her as she was visiting her former school with Diana on Monday.

Charlotte said: “When my dad gave me a call saying I’d been signed I didn’t know how to react. My friends were just screaming with me. My family are really happy and proud.

“Singing is what I’ve always wanted to do and my family have supported me really well.”

Charlotte, of Meins Road, Blackburn, first became interested in music when she was five and spent all of Christmas Day singing to her family.

She took up playing the guitar when she was 15 and started attending Saturday classes at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) at 16.

After gigging in many UK venues, including the Cavern Club in Liverpool, Charlotte’s music was sent to agent Sam Bush after he posted a bulletin on MySpace advertising for a new performer.

In October 2007 he signed the singer for a five year contract immediately after hearing her music.

Her self-penned song Steady Shark then hit the number one spot for unsigned artists on Bebo's music showcasing section, which allows users to upload music and vote for their favourites.

The Motown record label showed interest earlier this year and Charlotte was asked to play at the Canal Rooms venue in New York.

She performed there four weeks ago and during that visit Columbia Records spotted her and contacted their UK counterpart about a recording contract.

The young singer said: “I don’t think I would have been able to cope with a record deal before but I now feel prepared. I think the time was right.”

Charlotte describes her sound as acoustic soul and has enough material for two albums after co-writing with song writers in the last six months.

She said: “All I want is respect from musicians and people who like music. I want people to relate to my music.”

Principal of Westholme Upper School, Lillian Croston, said: “We are all delighted at Westholme to learn of Charlotte’s continuing success.

"She is a name to watch for in the future as she is a fabulous singer with her own very distinctive style.”

Her first album will be released in the middle of next year.