Islander Pete Droge to return to the stage

Only on Vashon can an evening walk to a Mt. Rainier overlook inspire a song that later turns up in a zombie movie. But such is the fascinating career arc of Pete Droge.

Standing on a hill

Staring at a mountain

Swallows dive and turn

Trying to catch what we can’t see

“Two of the Lucky Ones,” Pete Droge & Elaine Summers

Only on Vashon can a beautiful evening walk to a Mt. Rainier overlook inspire a song that later turns up in a zombie movie. But such is the fascinating career arc of Vashon Island singer/songwriter/producer Pete Droge.

Droge and his partner of 30+ years, Elaine Summers, will play a show at Vashon Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 30. The concert, a VCA and Debra Heesch Presents production, marks the first time Droge will step onto a live stage in more than six years — and tickets are already selling at a brisk pace.

In 2015, Droge was diagnosed with chronic fatigue.

“It was pretty debilitating,” Droge said. “There was a period where I basically went into retirement mode. Pretty much put the brakes on everything.”

Fortunately for his long-time fans, Droge has “slowly but slowly” begun to emerge from the fatigue to find his work rhythm once again.

“I wake up really early so I get a good amount of productivity in before it comes on,” he said. “Then I try to get my rest in so I have more gas in the tank for the evenings when Elaine and I have been having band practice for the upcoming show.”

Even in the wake of Droge’s chronic fatigue, he and Summers successfully completed their trilogy of “Droge & Summers Blend” releases, with Volume 3 coming out this past November. The CD kicks off with a new alternate version of ”Two of the Lucky Ones,” the very song that sprang from that perfect Vashon evening:

When all the work is done

By the light of the setting sun

We see what we’ve become

Two of the lucky ones.

Back in 2009, a more electric version of that song showed up in the film “Zombieland.”

It’s all part of the life of a contemporary songwriter with a home studio. Droge has licensed threads, cues and alternate versions of songs to movies and television. Some of his music has even turned up in TV commercials.

Droge and Summers arrived on Vashon from Portland in 1995 as still touring musicians, opening for the likes of Neil Young, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Lucinda Williams and a host of other music luminaries.

Droge was already a grizzled veteran of island life, having grown up on Bainbridge Island, but how would Summers take to the abrupt shift from the city to the country?

“Rural and progressive Vashon is the perfect combination for me,” said Summers. “There is a feeling of safety here, knowing that we exist in a supportive community that oozes with compassion.”

For Droge, the dream to build a recording studio in the country was born of an opportunity to record at Bear Creek Studios in Woodinville.

“They had a beautiful barn studio on ten acres in the woods,” he said. “And I thought man, that’s what I want, but then a friend said, ‘Have you been to Woodinville lately? You should consider Vashon Island. It’s like Bainbridge was 25 years ago.’”

From his Puzzle Tree Studio here on the island, Droge has produced records over the years for Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard, Moody Little Sister, Jamie Wyatt and Kim Virant. More recently, he’s co-produced several records for his friend and fellow islander Chris Ballew. The laid-back nature of the home studio lifestyle has made it easier for Droge to feather his working life into the constraints of his chronic fatigue challenges.

Last year, Droge began sharing his creative process with his fans via Substack, including audio clips and demos from a treasure trove of archives from every point along his three-decade career arc.

The upcoming show at VCA on March 30 will be a showcase of songs both new and old, some of which harken back to when Droge and Summers first met and began to sing together 30 years ago. In fact, Pete’s very first album, “Necktie Second,” features Elaine on harmony vocals.

“I would say that we sounded good together right away, but it was years later that we really developed the harmony blend that we have today,” Summers said.

Even though Summers has found her own successful career as a celebrated mosaic artist on Vashon, she and Droge have been writing songs together for a lot of years.

“If I’m left on my own, I’m content oftentimes to write cryptic, obtuse, somewhat vague lyrics,” said Droge, “and Elaine will steer things toward what is this song really about — and how can we find out what the center is and how can we have the lyrics really support that core?”

The fruit of their labors really shines through in The Droge & Summers Blend records, Volumes 1 through 3. Included on a couple of those records are versions of the musical love letter, “Island,” they wrote to their home on Vashon:

The air is salty and sweet

On an island

You never get a better night’s sleep

On an island

You know still waters run deep

On an island

There’s plenty of secrets to keep

On an island

“An Evening with Pete Droge” is presented by VCA and Debra Heesch at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 30, at Vashon Center for the Arts. Tickets can be purchased at The show is expected to sell out soon; names can be added to a waiting list for tickets that come available later.

— Jeff Hoyt is a writer who doubles as program manager for Voice of Vashon. He added Pete Droge’s music to the VoV rotation shortly after the station began operations around the turn of the century. In fact, a song by Elaine Summers was the first song ever to air on Voice of Vashon.