meet the makers | Jun 20, 2024 |
This musician makes insanely cool candles you can keep as cocktail glasses

Some of the best ideas are born by mistake, as Steve Soderholm well knows. The founder of fragrance house Ranger Station was a full-time drummer touring the world when he stumbled upon his passion for product design. “I was constantly looking for side projects to stay busy during my downtime,” he tells Business of Home. “Since I loved hosting friends at my home, I taught myself how to make candles on my stovetop so I could create a more ambient setting.”

This musician makes insanely cool candles you can keep as cocktail glasses
Steve and Jordan Soderholm Courtesy of Ranger Station

Born and raised just outside of Minneapolis, Soderholm always wanted to be a drummer. He played drums throughout high school before moving to Nashville to attend Belmont University in 2009, and by graduation was touring professionally. “Tour schedules are demanding and inconsistent,” he says. “You could be gone for three days or three months at a time, and though I loved how spontaneous the life was, I struggled with the downtime.”

To keep himself busy in between out-of-town gigs, he practiced making cocktails and then stovetop candles for when he had friends over for intimate dinner parties. “I immediately fell in love with the process of creating unique scents,” says Soderholm.

His homemade cocktail-glass candles began making waves throughout his friend group, and eventually the community at large. In 2015, he launched Ranger Station with one design—a tanned-leather-and-pine-sap-scented candle in a vessel meant to be repurposed as a whiskey glass—after his wife, Jordan, surprised him by building the brand a website. “I had no choice but to keep making them,” he jokes.

This musician makes insanely cool candles you can keep as cocktail glasses
The Leather + Pine Mammoth candle by Ranger StationCourtesy of Ranger Station

Both materiality and design play a key role in Ranger Station’s soy wax candles. “We spend countless hours on wick-testing our candles and use two [or three] wicks instead of one so that you get a clean and even burn,” says Soderholm. “Additionally, each candle comes with its own cocktail pairing recipe so you’re inspired to keep—and use—the glass container.”

This musician makes insanely cool candles you can keep as cocktail glasses
The Tennessee Tomato candle Courtesy of Ranger Station

Soderholm likens his process to songwriting, usually beginning with a certain scent, emotion or memory he wants to capture. Armed with a toolbox of fragrance notes—ranging from smoked wood to rose petals and sweet pipe tobacco—he combines, layers and tweaks various materials until he achieves the desired aroma. “Fragrance is a form of storytelling, so the process always starts with determining what the story we want to tell is,” he says.

In addition to offering dozens of in-house-designed perfumes, room sprays and scented candles, the brand collaborates with musicians—including Noah Kahan, Ernest, Waylon Jennings and The Band Camino—on bespoke, limited-edition fragrances. “The collaboration process is very similar to our own, except this time I’m translating someone else’s story into a fragrance,” says the artist.

Along with running Ranger Station, Soderholm founded emerging brand Nashville Candle Company, where he creates signature scents for big-name brands and commercial spaces including Chip and Joanna Gaines’s new Hotel 1928 project in Waco, Texas. “When I first started, it was just me on the stovetop, and this past holiday we had a team of about 35 people making candles and perfumes every day,” he says. “In 10 years, I want Ranger Station to be doing exactly what we are doing today, just more of it.”

If you want to learn more about Steve Soderholm, visit Ranger Station’s website or Instagram.

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