WHEN I was ten years old, I believe my hours away from school were spent causing havoc in the household and rescuing footballs from hedges. In hindsight, I can safely say that I was not the most creative or productive of characters when I reached double figures.
There is a reason for this shameful moment of reflection, and this is the fact that I have just had the pleasure of listening to the music of Barnstaple singer-songwriter Kiera Osment. Songs of haunting beauty, minimally composed to intensify the emotion within each short, wrought piece are now lodged firmly between my ears. These are songs that reflect an artist of blistering talent. And she's ten years old.
It is clear that Kiera, who used to attend Goodleigh school but is now taught from home, has had an interest in music from a very young age, and she lists piano, guitar and violin on her growing list of instrumental achievements.
Out of these, it is the piano that makes her songs what they are. Already at a grade 5 level, she plays well beyond her years. Within the first few seconds, I was reminded of the hypnotic monotony created by influential composer Philip Glass on his Solo Piano collection. The piano lines are simple, yet dramatically effective and offer a solid support to the vocals, which drift in and out in powerful tides.
What is really impressive (if all of the above wasn't enough) is the fact that Kiera's lyrics also show a real maturity.
When asked how she knows what to write about she nonchalantly replies: "The songs just come to me, like once when I was going to buy a washing machine with my mum and dad in the rain, I suddenly had this song in my head about the weather, called Hiking Up. And when my great grandma died I felt really sad and started strumming on the guitar and the words just came with the tune. I often get the best songs when I feel sad."
The result of the latter, is Lost Love, which she wrote when she was nine years old. It's possibly the most powerful song in her blossoming collection, and one that I politely demand for you all to listen to at haste, and challenge you not to be knocked out by the chorus.
Kiera's voice is soulful and full of personality, which is aided by the fact that she is singing songs from her own heart. I'm confident that she will have no trouble emulating such influences as Sarah McLachlan and Katie Melua.
Kiera's mother, Christy, is immensely proud of her daughter: "I really think her songs are beyond her years, they are touching and heartfelt. We sit and wonder sometimes when she comes down from her room, where she is supposed to be sleeping, and says: 'What do you think of this?' "
For her tenth birthday she was treated to a day's recording at the Aerial music studios in Mullacott.
"I found it very exciting," she said. "I would love to do it again."
It seems that the world is Kiera's oyster right now. In the immediate future, she would like to see herself playing live more, as it "makes her feel free", but she struggles to find the opportunity, which her mother believes is a common problem for young performers out there.
"It would be great to find more opportunities for children to thrive on being able to perform and meet others like themselves, so if there is anyone out there who could help, that would be great."
Further ahead, Kiera hopes to be a composer, a music teacher and a performer... which is the opposite of unrealistic given her startling talent.
You can listen to Kiera's songs on myspace at (www.myspace.com/kieraoz)