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She found fame on X Factor and has gone on to sing for international royalty and share a stage with Neil Diamond. Ahead of her upcoming Aviva Stadium gig Mary Byrne talks about the burden of fame, the ex she never sees and coming to terms with stage fright words.
Anne Sexton, 22 Aug 2011
It is impossible to dislike Mary Byrne. Whatever your feelings about the X Factor, and many of the criticisms directed at the televisual extension of Simon Cowell’s ego are valid, you’d need a heart of stone not to be touched by the fairytale. Mostly because of Mary herself, who is as warm and friendly as your favourite auntie.
“I didn’t set out to have a story, I set out to be me,” says Mary. “I went out and wore my heart on my sleeve. People saw this ordinary woman, fifty years of age, getting up on stage getting a fantastic opportunity to do what she’d wanted to do all her life, but didn’t have the courage.”
Mary’s story is truly an inspirational tale, striking a blow for older women and reminding us that not all singers have to be young, thin and clad in skimpy shorts to capture the public imagination.
“To be honest, I always said that the show was for young people and that the winner would be a young person. But as the show went on, I realised that people wanted this ordinary 50-year-old woman to do well. It’s like they carried me through on their shoulders. They were rooting for me, this little fat old lady belting out some of the classic songs.”
Since the X Factor, Mary has done a number of high-profile shows including performing for Elizabeth II, sharing a stage with Neil Diamond and is now booked to sing at the Dublin Super Cup at the Aviva Stadium at the end of July.
“It’s a great experience for me, to come from the checkout at Tesco to singing in the Aviva Stadium within a year,” says Mary, who admits she suffers from stage fright. “I don’t know how this is going to go – I know I’m going to be shaking, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s exciting.”
“The show with Neil was very nerve-wracking, but he came into my dressing room and kind of made me feel relaxed. He is a lovely man – he’s quite laidback and very sweet to talk to. When he came into the room he gave me a big hug and a kiss. He made me feel very comfortable.”