Hitting the Right Notes

Hitting the Right Notes

Ranger Station has a story to tell

Words by Ashley Locke

What do musicians do when they aren’t touring? In the heart of Nashville, Steve Soderholm made a space for musicians in the in-between.

Steve, a Minnesota native with a rhythm-driven soul, embarked on a musical pilgrimage to Tennessee to attend Belmont University where he met his now wife, Jordan. After graduation, Nashville became more home base than home as he spent months on the road touring with short stints back in town. Drumming on the road turned to drumming his fingers at home, a restlessness falling over him with nothing to occupy his time between tours. 

The camaraderie of friends always gathering in his old ranger station home, cocktails in hand and candles ablaze, was a testament to Steve's proclivity for turning moments into memories—and from those get-togethers came his first candle. Steve's innovative spirit saw potential in the unconventional. “He had the idea to pour them into cocktail glasses,” said Jordan. “I had never heard of anyone doing that before.”

Candles became more than a hobby as more and more friends began asking to take one home. In the kitchen, over the stovetop, a business began to take shape. Jordan, initially skeptical, recognized the uniqueness of this approach. “Jordan said we should make a website, and then all of the sudden she was telling me the website was live,” said Steve. “I was scared that we weren’t ready!”

Word of mouth kindled early interest, and they stepped into the world of wholesale, finding a space on the eclectic shelves of Nashville’s White's Mercantile. “Our wholesale base made a difference right off the bat,” said Jordan. “Getting trade shows and doing stores outside of Nashville—it happened so naturally for Steve. People took to it immediately.”

Ranger Station—named after Steve’s Nashville neighborhood of 12 South—is more than just candles; it’s a story woven into the lives of musicians. “Our first staff member was my brother, John, who was touring with Parachute at the time,” said Steve. “Most of our production staff are musicians. I know how hard it is to pursue a dream with a really crazy schedule—needing something to do to pay rent and pay bills.”

The Wedgewood-Houston warehouse buzzes with creativity, both a sanctuary and a haven. Musicians on hiatus find solace there, channeling their artistic energy into crafting candles. It’s a job they can always count on to be waiting for them, whether they’re home for two days or two months.

Though on the surface life making candles seems completely different from life playing music on the road, Steve feels the connection. “Music and fragrance are so similar—both things are trying to tell a story,” he said. “When we’re creating a fragrance, we start with the story that we are telling. I can take that and certain fragrance notes elicit different emotions, so I start to build the emotions of that experience.” 

Their latest scent, Jordan's Perfume, encapsulated memories of a walk to dinner on a London trip, capturing the essence of the moment forever. The first Ranger Station candle, Leather and Pine, is pulled straight from Steve’s childhood. “My grandparents live in Minnesota on Lake Superior, and I spent so much time doing work with my grandfather. I had that memory of cold, of leather gloves and boots, and doing work in the woods.” 

In a recent collaboration with musician Noah Kahan, Steve worked to create a fragrance that matched the listening experience. “What does the album Stick Season smell like—what does Vermont smell like?” he said. “It was so cool to create a fragrance that no matter where you are in the world, you feel like you’re sitting around a campfire in Vermont wearing a flannel.” The collaboration sold out in one day.

As Ranger Station continued to increase sales, only one thing was missing. “We always dreamed of having a store,” said Jordan. “When you smell candles in person and you find your scent, you know you want to buy it.” 

The aspiration of a store found its way into reality, nestled in the heart of Nashville’s 12 South—where it all began. This store is more than brick and mortar; it’s a manifestation of their open-door lifestyle—a welcoming space where others can share in the warmth of their story. “We want it to have the feeling of welcomeness and openness,” said Jordan. “It’s really cool to have people come in who are fans of the brand, who tell us that one of our scents is their signature.”

“We’ve interacted with people wholesale and online, but this is a whole new thing to be able to watch and interact with customers,” said Steve. “We both probably are here more than we should or need to be because it’s so fun to be here.”

At Ranger Station, fragrance is an experience. Strike a match, spark a memory.