Confident Driver sings own words on first album

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
November 29, 2004

Minnie Driver knew that when she released her debut album, “Everything I’ve Got in My Pocket,” some would be quick to dismiss her as just another actor-turned-wannabe-singer.

Never mind that she already was a veteran of the band Puffs, Rock and Brown when she landed her breakout film role in 1995’s “Circle of Friends.” As far as the world is concerned, she’s as much of a singer as Keanu Reeves, Russell Crowe or, worse yet, Juliette Lewis.

“That’s why I don’t read reviews,” the 34-year-old says, on the phone from San Francisco. “I don’t want to know what people say about me, good or bad, because if I believe the good then I have to believe the bad, too. All I can say is I don’t blame people who want to express themselves in different ways. People are resistant to the notions of actors or musicians doing other things. I don’t know why. They feel it’s safer to keep us in boxes.

“But look at someone like David Hasselhoff, who has sold hundreds of thousands of records in Germany. Whether or not I like his music, I have to respect him.”

Most would agree Driver is a better actor and singer than Hasselhoff. But though she’s sung in the Bond flick “GoldenEye” and on “The Chris Isaak Show,” this album marks her first foray into songwriting.

Driver’s voice is pleasant enough, but her lyrics are her real strength.  They are beguilingly honest — or at least exude a perceived honesty.
Whether she’s letting us into her personal life is debatable — and she’s not saying — but she weaves a good tale.

“I love those songs I wrote, but I wrote them when I was pretty sad,” Driver says. “I’ve never been happier than I am right now, so I’m hoping I won’t have trouble writing in this state. I think it’s the measure of your growth as a person if you can be productive when you’re happy, because we tend to gravitate to articulating our emotions best when we’re sad. But then I look at Bruce Springsteen, who is at a really good place in his life and still
writes amazingly passionate songs. That’s inspirational.”

Inspirational is good, but Driver also knows her limits. She stars as Carlotta in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s film version of “The Phantom of the Opera,” but she opted out of singing in the movie.

“I’m not an opera singer,” Driver says. “That entails a lifetime of training. I could’ve sung any other role in that movie, or in something like
‘Cabaret’ or ‘Chicago,’ but it would’ve been incredibly arrogant of me to try to approximate singing opera.”

However, she does sing a song that rolls over the credits. “Andrew wrote it for me because I guess his wife dug my album and liked my voice,” she says.  “I was so flattered.”

But tonight’s show will be more about rock ‘n’ roll than anything operatic. And it’ll be a Chicago comeback for Driver as well; she spent a few months here when she filmed “Return to Me” in 2000.

“I spent one of the happiest summers of my life living opposite the [Blommer] chocolate factory in Chicago,” Driver says. “I knew all the people
in the neighborhood and cycled from my apartment to the zoo where we shot a lot of stuff [for the movie]. In Los Angeles, it doesn’t feel like you live
in a community. In Chicago, I knew the guys where I bought the paper and milk. I hope some of my old neighbors are at the show.”

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