Even though she’s not famous for it, Minnie Driver says she has been making music as long as she’s been acting. (Courtesy photo)

Meet Minnie Driver, singer-songwriter

Judging solely by big screen appearances two decades apart, Minnie Driver’s talents as a singer might be rated really awful (“Goldeneye” in 1995) or unexpectedly classical (2004’s “The Phantom of the Opera”). Neither would be accurate, as audiences will hear at Feinstein’s at the Nikko this weekend.

In the James Bond adventure, Driver portrayed the defiantly talent-free girlfriend of a Russian mobster “strangling the cat” with her country star aspirations. For the film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical currently haunting the Orpheum, Driver got to work her lip-synching muscles as she is not a coloratura soprano.

However, film audiences who waited for the “Phantom” credits to roll were treated to the premiere of the Oscar-nominated Lloyd Webber tune “Learn to Be Lonely” sung by a smoked-honey voice in a country-pop style. To the surprise of many, that was pure Driver.

Trained on British television, Driver first achieved critical notice with the Irish indie film “Circle of Friends” opposite Chris O’Donnell. Soon after, “Good Will Hunting” with Matt Damon boosted her prominence. She’s also had American television success on “Will & Grace” and “The Riches.”

All the while, the Oscar-, Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated star has performed concerts with her band, written her own songs and released three solo albums, including last year’s “Ask Me to Dance.”

“It’s so annoying,” she half-jokingly protests. “So many people don’t know. I think it’s because I never took [producer] Tommy Mottola up on his offer of becoming a big superstar, but not being able to write any of my own material at Sony. Then, I basically would have been Jennifer Lopez!”

She admits, of course that many people know. “Loads of people know,” she laughs, “but loads of people don’t know because I always kept it super small and I signed with my lovely, amazing, small label. I did it kind of a roots way up and so people don’t know that you do stuff.”

Music has always been part of the London-born actor’s life. She wrote songs in school and signed her first recording contract before she was 20.

“It’s always weird for me when people say, ‘I didn’t know you did music.’ It’s a part of me. There’s not a time that I didn’t make music,” she says. “Then you realize that when you become very well known in another field, people associate you with that thing. I think it’s hard for people to think of you in tandem with something else.”

Minnie Driver
Where: Feinstein’s at the Nikko, 220 Mason St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 11, 7 p.m. Sept 12-13
Tickets: $65 to $80
Contact: (866) 663-1063, www.ticketweb.com

Feinstein’s at the NikkoMinnie Driversingersongwriter

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