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Minnie Driver’s third album, Ask Me to Dance, her first since 2007’s Seastories, and third overall for Rounder/ Zoe, will be a cover album. It is slated to come out Oct. 7.
The selections include numbers by the late Elliott Smith (“Waltz #2”), whom Driver befriended when both were in the early stages of their careers. She takes a jazzy approach to The Cure’s “Close to Me,” while also covering Neil Young (“Tell Me Why”), John Prine (“Speed of the Sound of Loneliness”) and Neil Finn (“Better Be Home Soon”).
She reinvents the Killers’ “Human” as a country ballad, turns Sinatra’s swinging standard, “Fly Me to the Moon,” into a stark, introspective ballad and rethinks Stevie Wonder’s “Master blaster” as a pensive mood piece.
“This is something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Driver says of the project. “Every single song on it has enormous resonance for me, for one reason or another. It’s called Ask Me to Dance because a lot of it is my entire teenage experience of standing at the side of a dark dance hall, just willing someone to ask me to dance. Some of these songs are the ones that helped me through being a teenager.
“But it wasn’t just about going back to the past. The point was to choose songs that I felt a real connection to, and then metabolizing the song and seeing how I could bring something new to it. It was much harder than I thought it would be, and it was quite a challenge to try to turn these songs into something new, and to find myself in them in a way that would also be meaningful to other people.”
Since her last album, Driver has been busy raising her now-five-year-old son and earning acclaim for the FX TV series The Riches, for which she was nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award as Best Lead Actress. She also starred in the 2010 BBC series The Deep, and appeared in the feature films Conviction and Barney’s Version, for which she won a Genie Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Driver recently starred in the Lifetime television movie Return to Zero, the true story of a couple’s anguish over losing their baby after a turbulent pregnancy, for which she was nominated for a 2014 Critics’ Choice Television Award, as well as a 2014 Primetime Emmy Award. She’s currently one of the stars of the NBC series About a Boy, which will premiere its second season Oct. 14.
She recorded Ask Me to Dance with Marc “Doc” Dauer, who also produced her first two albums, and legendary engineer Jim Scott, who worked on Seastories, along with many musicians who played on her prior releases.
“I really like the continuity of working with the same people,” Driver states. “To me, that’s a lot more interesting than the idea of going to France to make a record with Phoenix or going to North Africa to work on some world beats. I’m more interested in finding my own groove, and I like where I’m at with these guys, because there’s a shorthand and a communication that’s developed over time. This time, we were all in the room together, and it just felt so good and so positive. I gave a little speech every time we started a new song, letting them know what the song meant to me, and they got it.”
Having ended her extended recording hiatus, Driver is looking forward to playing live again, and plans to work around About a Boy‘s shooting schedule to bring Ask Me to Dance to life.
“Everyone’s journey is different, and there’s a million different ways of doing it,” she reflects. “With my first record, because I had been waiting for such a long time to do it, I felt a need to prove myself. And then people actually listened and realized that it wasn’t a self-aggrandizing train wreck, so now I don’t feel like I have quite so much to prove. But music remains very important to me, and I feel like I’m still learning and still growing.
“You can’t talk people into believing that you’re good at something. You just have to show them, and then you just have to keep doing it and keep getting better at it, and let the work speak for itself.”
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