AUGUST 2011 COVER STORY – Pete Droge Discovering More Than Music in ‘A Lot Like You’

Somehow calling Seattle native Pete Droge a “singer/songwriter” just doesn’t seem to do him justice. The multi-instrumentalist isn’t just some aspiring singer with a guitar and a notebook hacking out songs and recording them on his computer thinking he will be the next Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen like a lot of artist in this social-network savvy era.

Droge is no one trick pony. From the time that he signed with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings in 1993, Droge has enjoyed a multifaceted career as a recording artist, songwriter, producer, and composer.

His debut album – Necktie Second was critically acclaimed which spawned the hit single “If You Don’t Love Me,” which was featured in the film “Dumb and Dumber.” Since his early success, Droge has gone on to contribute music to a myriad of film and television projects, including “Zombieland,” “Almost Famous,” “Beautiful Girls,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” as well as ad campaigns for Toyota and T-Mobile. On top of all that, Droge has released six solo albums (most of which are on his own Puzzle Tree record label) and formed a side band called The Thorns with Matthew Sweet and Shawn Mullins,

“I have been really lucky to enjoy some great opportunities,” Droge said of his film and television work. “Everything has to line up for a song to make into a film. The feel of the track has to match the pace of the edits, the spirit of the music needs to support the story, and the lyrics can’t be to on-the-nose, and so on. So anytime I get a song that makes it into a film, or a TV show, i view it as a minor miracle—a perfect storm.”

As hard as it is for a song to be used in the visual media outlets it is even harder for a musician to compose (or score) an entire project. But with his experience in television and film, it is no surprise then that Droge was recently commissioned to score the soundtrack for the documentary film “A Lot Like You.”

“Working as a composer is another story. Anyone who is known as a songwriter and recording artist will have to overcome some bias out there where people assume that you will not understand how to make music that works as underscore. I have worked really hard to unlearn habits engrained in me from years of making records, which is a challenge that i enjoy. Also, I love being part of a creative team, helping to tell a bigger story. I like the support role. I love trying to understand what a director is trying to do and help make it happen with music and sound. it is extremely satisfying when it comes together and works.”

The majority of “A Lot Like you” is mindfully crafted featuring layered melancholy folk-rock. Those who are familiar with Droge’s catalog would expect. In fact, several tracks are instrumental remixes of songs from his 2006 release, Under the Waves. For the most part, Droge stays within his wheelhouse with gentle finger-picked acoustics, down-tempo beats, and distant electric guitars coming together to create a dusty, rough-hewn feel. The composer goes into recording a score as if he would go into one of his solo records

“I am just looking for tracks that make me feel something real. and i want the music to support the story or character, which can be the subject of a song put across by lyrics, or it can be the inner world of a character on film being told with moving pictures. in both cases though, you are working to create an environment. Obviously there will be more to take into account when working with film– picture, dialog, location sound, sound design– they impose certain limitations. that is part of the beauty of it for me. i love having those limitations.”

However when you have several different projects like Droge does – be it solo work, television/film work and his side band The Thorns – he has to pick and choose what music he composes goes to which project.

“It is always different. With the Thorns it had to be something that would be conducive to three part harmony. Right now I am writing with Elaine Summers (Droge’s musician wife) for our project the Droge and Summers Blend… so we are on the lookout for songs that will be served well by our voices working together. I am stockpiling some other ideas that may find their way onto a more raw kind of trashy garage rock record. “

For now Droge’s focus is still on the 25-song film score “A Lot Like You,” a film which not only inspired him musically but personally. The documentary inspired Droge, who is adopted, to seek out his biological parents.

“During the making of the film, I was inspired to search for my birth family,” the adopted Droge said. “Sadly my birth mother passed just months before i searched. the silver lining is that i have connected with my grandmother, uncle and other relatives– it has been amazing. I have no clues about my birth father… i would love to track him down.”