Minnie Driver has played a lot of roles on screen since breaking out in 1995’s “Circle of Friends.” She’s seemingly played as many roles off screen as well – promising newcomer, breakout star, tabloid fodder, and, finally, established actress who can be the focus of the story (like on the gone-too-soon FX show “The Riches”) or support the leads with equal ability.
But for the last decade, since the release of her 2004 debut album, “Everything I’ve Got in my Pocket,” one of those roles has received little attention: She’s also been a singer-songwriter, recording and performing live during summer hiatuses and in between movie shoots.
Driver sat down to talk with amNewYork about her latest album, “Ask Me to Dance,” featuring covers of songs by Elliott Smith, Stevie Wonder and even The Killers.
What were your earliest musical influences?
I spent a lot of time in the Caribbean when I was a kid, and calypso and Soca music were everywhere all the time. I think those are my earliest musical memories — the sound of steel drums, early music battling, moving and dancing. And then when I was seven or eight I bought “Parallel Lines” and “Hotter Than July.” Those were the first two records I really didn’t take off my record player. ? “Innervisions” and “Let It Be” were probably the two records that were most influential, and then “Blood on the Tracks.”
How do you select a cover?
Someone told me — and I don’t know if this is a direct translation, but it’s some version of it — that karaoke means “empty orchestra.” We were sitting around talking about how you infuse songs that you love so that they’re not empty, some dreadful empty facsimile of a song you love. The only way I could figure to do that was to make every single song something that’s important to me personally. All those stories are in the liner notes of the record — I tell the story of how I chose every song and how it connects to my life. That’s where I make music from. That’s where I write music from and where I sing from.
One of those songs is the Killers’ “Human,” which seems like an incongruous choice. What drew you to it?
I’m a really huge Killers fan, and I think Brandon Flowers is a hugely underrated songwriter. I love their whole vibe and what they do. When I heard “Human,” I wanted to play it. With all great songs you can really strip it down to playing it on a guitar or on a keyboard and it will sound as great – different, but great songs can be moved around like that. He’s just a clever songwriter ? It’s a beautiful, electronic, rock-dance song, and you can also play it like Patsy Cline.