By Neil Smith
BBC News Online
Actress Minnie Driver launched her debut album, Everything I've Got In My Pocket, at a show at London's Borderline on Thursday.
Minnie Driver began her career as a singer
"You're all very quiet," says a visibly nervous Minnie Driver as she peers out at an audience of journalists, pundits and critics. "Quietly judging me."
She could hardly have expected anything else. After all, it is not every day that a successful actress turns her back on movies to relaunch herself as a singer-songwriter.
Until now, the only obvious indication that Driver had musical ambitions came from her brief appearance in the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye.
Her role in the movie was a Russian cabaret singer squealing a tone-deaf rendition of Tammy Wynette's Stand By Your Man.
But appearances can be deceptive. Driver actually started out in music, singing in London's jazz clubs as a teenager before joining a band.
Indeed, she was in the process of negotiating a solo deal with EMI when her acting career took off. The same label is now bankrolling her current project.
She revealed herself to be the owner of a husky, folky voice with a transatlantic twang
After her surprise appearance at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, in March, the music giant reportedly signed her up for $1.8m (£1m).
The fruits of that investment were unveiled at the UK launch of her debut album, Everything I've Got In My Pocket.
Backed by a five-man band that included members of US group The Wallflowers, Driver - dressed down in white blouse and jeans - performed six tracks from the record.
In the process, she revealed herself to be the owner of a husky, folky voice with a transatlantic twang not a million miles from that of fellow singer-songwriters Liz Phair and Natalie Merchant.
The songs ranged from the melancholy So Well and the up-tempo Invisible Girl to the languid title track and a downbeat, "stripped-down" version of Bruce
Springsteen's Hungry Heart.
Driver was nominated for an Oscar for Good Will Hunting
Each number clearly had a personal resonance for Driver. One song, Home, was inspired by friends who recently had a baby, while the lyrics of So Well appeared to refer to a former partner.
The 30-minute set ended with Ruby Adeline, an acoustic ballad dedicated to her sister Kate.
The general response was good, though Driver made light of the crowd's reaction. "That's my friends clapping," she joked after her Springsteen cover.
She also apologised for slightly erratic strumming. "I don't play so good," she admitted.
The guitar may not be her strong point, but on this evidence, Everything I've Got In My Pocket - released in October - is hardly the debacle some critics have predicted.
And though her vocals were occasionally drowned out by her band, her melodic alt-country makes her a lot more credible than other Hollywood stars who have strayed into this arena.
Time will tell if Driver's musical ambitions will be realised. In the mean time, she still has her day job.