When Minnie Driver steps onto the SOhO stage this Sunday evening, she won’t be exercising a separate side of her artistic psyche so much as sharing a soul fueled simply by creative yearning. In a world that feels the need to assign people a distinct artistic place and is reluctant to let them stray, Minnie Driver refuses to subscribe to such constraints. It might have been within her many lauded thespian endeavors that Driver first imparted herself on the greater cultural consciousness, but it was through music that her unrestrained creative passion first surfaced.
While fronting a U.K. jazz ensemble called the Mylo Ross Band, Driver was rewarded with a development deal from Island Records. But when the recording fell a little short of expectations-and her fellow band members had drunk away most of the development money-they were quickly dropped from the deal. After retreating to South America, a call from EMI Records soon saw Driver meeting with the label in London, where she also happened to audition for and was subsequently offered a role in the film Circle of Friends.
While the next 10 years saw Minnie Driver side-tracked by her endeavors on the silver screen, music was always lurking there. “Up until then, music was far more of a personal thing,” explained Driver. “It was always there, but the music I was making at that time was really just for me and my friends. It was Marc Dauer, who has produced both of my records, who initially convinced me to step up and start recording.”
In 2004-under Dauer’s guiding hand-Minnie Driver’s full musical potential was realized with the release of her recording debut, Everything I’ve Got in My Pocket. Drawing on a stable of high caliber musicians like Pete Yorn and certain members of The Wallflowers, the recording took Driver far beyond the perception of an actress dabbling in music to one of a serious musical contender. Adulation for the recording flew from far and wide and fans were aplenty-one of whom turned out to be none other than Ryan Adams. And when it came time to contemplate her next musical outing, Adams was more than willing to offer up his services.
“Ryan saw me perform on some television show and just rang me up,” recounted Driver. “I was living in New York for about six months and Ryan and I started hanging out and became friends. Then we started playing and writing a little bit. He had just finished working with Willie Nelson and suggested that he could produce a record for me and that I could use his band, so we tried that and, while I wasn’t quite ready to take it the whole way, it was definitely a great experience.”
While the sessions didn’t yield a complete recording, four songs from that undertaking worked their way onto Driver’s latest recorded offering, Seastories. Complementing the contributions culled from her New York sessions with Adams and the Cardinals are a selection of songs from a subsequent West Coast session, featuring the talents of some of Driver’s regular musical cohorts. And while both sessions were recorded live, the logistics of the bi-coastal undertakings made for two very unique experiences, which flavors the resulting work accordingly.
“Both sessions were recorded live, but they were definitely two very different experiences,” explained Driver. “New York was very frantic, whereas it was much more chilled in Los Angeles. But it wasn’t so much the location or place, more the schedules. The hours we were doing in New York contributed to that as we were starting work at eleven o’clock at night and working through to six in the morning. Whereas in Los Angeles it was very civilized. We would work from midday through to the early evening, which made for a much more relaxed atmosphere.”
With Seastories now out on Zoe Records, Minnie Driver and her band are taking her new musical offerings out on the road. While the duality of her creative life does require a little juggling, it is something that Minnie Driver wouldn’t have any other way. As the infectious compositions and spirited performances that flavor the album so readily indicate, Driver never hesitates to dive heart-first into any creative undertaking that captures her imagination. And, as Minnie Driver so fervently states, she also refuses to let convention dictate the path it takes.
“I refuse to subscribe to this impoverished way of thinking and plan to carry on making music, movies, babies, dinner, and stories until I drop.”