When we tracked down Minnie Driver earlier this week, the actress, singer, and mother of one was still reeling from her recent Emmy nomination. The announcement came just days prior, in honor of her turn in the Lifetime movie Return to Zero, where she portrays an expectant mother shattered by the stillbirth of her child.
“I really want to win. I know you’re not supposed to say that, but I want it for the attention it would bring to the film,” she enthused. “You don’t really make meaningful stories like that a lot as an actor, but this one really had a huge impact.”
Sobering roles and industry accolades aside, though, Driver’s career is still making quite the impact. At 44, she’s long past her roles in films like Circle of Friends and Good Will Hunting. This fall, she’ll return to the small screen for the second season of NBC’s About a Boy as Fiona, a struggling single mother whose son befriends her bachelor neighbor. And the show is just one of the ways Driver is keeping busy. Come October, she’ll release Ask Me to Dance, the long-awaited follow-up to her 2007 album. This week, she embarks on a five-date concert tour, which includes a stop at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on July 20. Below, we talk acting, singing, and her rock ’n’ roller offspring.
You’ve got so much going on; I don’t know how you found time to make a record. It’s really mad, actually. [Laughs.] I don’t know, either. My mom just said that to me today. She said, “Do you have a clone who’s doing half the stuff that you have to do?” It’s really lovely, though. There’s nothing that I’m rolling my eyes at. It’s all really good stuff. I’m just tired.
When did the new record come together? We recorded it a little while ago, when I knew I had a break; I just figured I’d go and make an album and figure it out afterwards. But then I got the show, and I couldn’t commit to doing the promo for it, and obviously when you have something for too long, you start fiddling around with it. I got it remastered. It’s been a little bit of a process.
How do you compare approaching a new batch of songs to diving into a role? It’s funny because I realized that the parts that I really fight for and want are the ones I know that I can do. I know they’ll be hard, but I know that I can do them. Even playing Maggie Royal [in Return to Zero] — thank god I don’t have an experience with stillbirth, but I somehow felt I could get to that depth of emotion. It’s the same with songs. You have to be really clear about what your parameters as an artist are, I think, and play to your strengths. For the album I recorded “Jesus, Etc.” by Wilco, which is one of my top-five favorite songs of all time, and I have sung it for so long and I couldn’t believe it didn’t work, but it didn’t work. You have to be able to go, “Okay, that’s not happening, and there’s a reason for it, and I won’t spend too much time trying to figure out why.” Diving into it, you have to be really clear about what it is you’re doing and what you want to achieve, and you’re not just fucking around trying to find out. It’s the same on a TV show — you just don’t have time. This ain’t no $200 million movie where you are shooting one scene a week — you’re shooting nine pages a day — and you better be sure about what you’re doing. That kind of alacrity and clarity really serves me.
So does your son come along on tour? You know, he won’t be back in school ’til August, so I might bring him to the 8 o’clock show in L.A. He can wear earplugs. He’s a crazy rock ’n’ roller. He will love it.
Like the mom that invests in the huge headphones so they can bring their baby to shows? Oh, yeah. But he’d take them off. I know my kid, and he wants ear-bleedingly loud music at all times.
Minnie Driver plays SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Sunday, July 20, at 8 p.m. with opener Heather Reid. Call (805) 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com for tickets and info.