Congratulations on the new album. How does it feel?
"Thanks very much! It feels very, very surreal. The record company rang me just a moment ago and told me it's doing well on the pre-orders, which in itself feels amazing. I performed on QVC last week and that's what got the sales rocketing - I didn't believe that could happen."
How did you find the recording process?
"I went in to the studio straight after Christmas and laid the tracks down with [producer] Nigel Wright and Yvie Burnett - she helped me with the vocals. It was a very small studio, but I'd never done anything like that in my life! Obviously we had to record the songs from the show, but I had a fair say in what other songs we went with."
Which tracks are your favourites?
"Of course I love all the songs, but there was one Nigel picked for me called 'I Just Call You Mine' which I fell in love with as soon as I heard it. I also love the big songs like 'It's A Mans World'. There's covers by Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black in there too - real legendary artists."
If you were to record an album of original songs, would you go for a similar sound then?
"I would because those are the type artists I look up to anyway. They're love songs, which when you get to my age, are the songs that you really 'feel'. I have to feel the lyrics in a song to be able to enjoy singing it. That said, I'd love to have a hand in writing my own songs in the future, but it would have to be passionate, catchy, and I'd like a couple of uptempo songs in there too!"
You're releasing the album the same week as Britney, are you nervous?
"I didn't know that! Well, move over Britney, Mary Byrne's here! Seriously though, what's to be will be I suppose. That's a very weird feeling, she's an icon with millions of fans, and there's me, a 50-something from Ballyfermot in Dublin. Maybe we should have a stand-off?"
You're on The X Factor tour at the moment, are you planning to hit the road solo anytime soon?
"I've still got The X Factor tour for now, which is hectic, but you're rewarded when you go out on that amazing stage every night. I think my own tour is being discussed at the moment. I don't know if it will be in England as well but I hope to play some smaller venues here. There's definitely going to be some shows in Ireland, which I can't wait to do! Long may it last, but if it doesn't, I'm enjoying it now while I can."
Have you heard Jedward's Eurovision entry?
"Honestly, I haven't heard it yet. I used to watch Eurovision years ago when it felt more important and when we could all enjoy it. It's not the same as it used to be, but I wish the lads the best of luck. I can't comment on the song because I've not been home to hear it, but fair play to them."
As a former Tesco employee, what do you make of artists who sign exclusive album deals with supermarkets?
"I never knew artists could actually do that until I made my own album, but I think it's a good idea if it's what works for the artist. This is a hard business, and whatever way someone wants to get their music out there, I say good luck to them. I only learnt how difficult it is to sell albums and singles in the last couple of weeks - I didn't realise things had got this bad."
After experiencing Cheryl Cole's judging first-hand, do you think she would be well-suited to the US version of X Factor?
"I think she would be good, but I don't think the US would get her in the same way that we do. They don't know the things that she's been through - the good times and the sad parts - but we've followed her through it. I don't know whether Americans would take to her without that knowledge. Saying that, Victoria Beckham has made it over there, so she obviously stands a reasonable chance."
Do you think the UK version could continue without Simon and Cheryl?
"I think they'd be sadly missed, partiularly Simon - it's his show after all. In fact, Simon and Louis are the ones who make show what it is with all their banter and their arguing!"
Mine & Yours is out March 28.