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VoyageLA Podcast: Samm Stangeland of Rock & Roll Candle Co.

From her start as a runner at LiveNation to serving as Lady Gaga’s tour production coordinator and crew road manager, Samm has been a rockstar at every stage of her career.

Now, in her role as business owner and entrepreneur she is taking on new challenges and there is so much to learn from her journey.



Alex (Host): Samm, thanks for joining us on the podcast today.

Samm Stangeland: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me rock and roll candle company.

Alex (Host): I suppose it makes sense to start at the rock and roll. You’ve had quite a career in the music industry. Can you tell us about that part of your journey?

Samm Stangeland: Yeah, absolutely. To be honest, I fell into it, but I was always a music lover just from a child, like growing up.

Samm Stangeland: My dad would always share new music with me and my grandparents and I was always surrounded by it and it [00:02:00] became my escape later on in life as I was, you know, navigating the teenage years and everything. And I always wanted to be in the music industry, but never really figured out how, and didn’t go to school for it.

Samm Stangeland: And one day the opportunity presented itself to be a runner for some of the shows in, uh, SoCal for live nation. And I. Almost did not take it, which is so crazy because my entire life would’ve been different, but I did. And one show led to another. And by the end of that year, I’d moved up in positions and created a 12 year long career in it producing some of the biggest bands and.

Samm Stangeland: LA and the world. Um,

Alex (Host): I, you know, the, the name runner may, may seem self explanatory, but could you, could you just give us an overview of what that kind of entry level

Samm Stangeland: job was? 100%. Yeah. It’s basically you’re running errands for the tour. Um, that’s everything from [00:03:00] driving. The bus drivers too. And from the hotel, picking up food, airport runs all the things, whatever comes up that day, that they need you to do.

Samm Stangeland: You’re you’re working for ’em and the days were very long. Let me tell you like 18 hours.

Alex (Host): Wow that, yeah, that is, uh, that is most of the day. That’s, a very large percentage of it. How did you, how did you step up from, what were you doing as a runner that allowed you to kind of step up into the, into the higher positions?

Alex (Host): Well,

Samm Stangeland: I mean, the position did become available, but. I would say that I knew how to read a room really well and was extremely organized as I am just in life. Like I have to be organized, otherwise everything kind of falls apart for me. So, um, and I think I was just so passionate about being there and would do anything and everything because I absolutely [00:04:00] loved it.

Samm Stangeland: That that attitude persevered and. and lo and behold, it, it locked me into that position.

Alex (Host): Incredible. Um, so then, so then I also know that, so this love of music leads to the, to the name of the company, um, and the idea for the company. But I know that the, kind of the, the idea of the company comes separately from diving in and really getting the company started.

Alex (Host): Uh, can you talk about where, where the idea for the company came from?

Samm Stangeland: Absolutely. Uh, It came to me one day while I was listening to the rolling stones, which. Other than Tom petty, they are like my favorite classic rock band. Well, and the Beatles, but, uh, I was just out and brown sugar came on and I was like, how is there not a candle company that connects music and candles with these scent oriented songs?

Samm Stangeland: And. So that was probably 2015. [00:05:00] I continued to keep a little note page in my iPhone and I would, you know, lab all about town that I was gonna start this candle company one day . And so I just kind of kept, kept having ideas. And of course, like my friends would text me every time they thought of one and stuff.

Samm Stangeland: And so that’s how it came about. Um, and then it wasn’t really until the pandemic. When I finally had the time to put my money where my mouth is.

Alex (Host): And what was that process like for you of actually, you know, making that decision of, okay. Now is the time to, to dive in, because I, you know, you were working in the, the live event industry, which as March of 2020 hits, uh, disappears.

Alex (Host): Um, so I guess, what is that moment like? In your life that then you kind of, I don’t know, maybe pick up the pieces, um, and say now is the time for rock and roll candle company to come

Samm Stangeland: to life? Yeah. So , I had three jobs in the music [00:06:00] industry as of March, 2020, and they all went away. So I was producing concerts for live nation in LA.

Samm Stangeland: I was touring with lady Gaga and I was also helping book and manage DJs for corporate events like Grammy’s and Oscar after parties and stuff like that. And they all went away in basically a couple days. So the shock was a lot, you know, and once we figured out that this was not gonna be just a couple days, I really.

Samm Stangeland: I mean, I had a lot of time on my hand as I think we all did. And I decided that it was the best time to refocus my energy and start this company that I had been spouting that I was going to start forever. So yeah, I mean, honestly, I think it was to fill in some of that anxiety that we were all experiencing as well and just, uh, re reshift and, you know, [00:07:00] recalibrate.

Alex (Host): My own background. And my, my wife were both, uh, theater performers. I’m a theater director. And, uh, you hit that period in March, 2020, where you’re suddenly almost mourning this central piece of, uh, maybe the, maybe your identity. Um, and I just wanna hear how you, how you processed that, uh, that loss in that moment.

Samm Stangeland: Absolutely. Yeah, it was a morning period. Indeed. I. Had my three jobs in the industry, which was, you know, they were all music oriented and once they all went away, I really had a part of my livelihood or a big part of my livelihood that had a huge void in it. And didn’t know, you know, I mean, there was so much uncertainty.

Samm Stangeland: We had no idea. when things were gonna resume, we couldn’t [00:08:00] see each other because of COVID and it was really hard. Honestly. I, I really, it took me a while to kind of get normal to where I could even think about pouring my energy into this. But once I did, once I kind of recalibrated a. it was, you know, it was the right decision.

Samm Stangeland: It was exactly what I had to do to, to fill those gaps. And I refer to it as my pandemic pivot because I really don’t know if I would’ve stepped aside from my role in the industry to make time for this business, had the world not stopped. It was it. I loved it. I, you know, I loved touring with Gaga. I loved producing concerts in LA and we, we would do all the big shows as well.

Samm Stangeland: So it was, it was, you know, I was in the upper echelon of concerts that I wanted to be at anyway. So losing that and [00:09:00] not knowing when it was coming back was very emotional. And I’m glad that I could channel that energy and pour it into this company.

Alex (Host): And once you did kind of dive. Two rock and roll candle company.

Alex (Host): Uh, what was, what was the journey to actually creating the candles? Had you ever made a candle before? Um, I mean, how did you, how did you kind of go from, from this idea, this, this like really great and fun idea to the, the actual work of. Creating this product.

Samm Stangeland: Yeah. It’s a lot of work. Let me tell you and times were totally different then, because you didn’t know if you could get wax, you didn’t know if you could get glass like the, you know, supply chain and everything.

Samm Stangeland: So. I had made candles as a Christmas gift a couple years prior. And that was my only experience. Um, I did have a friend who I must give so much credit to because he was like a candle guru and helped point me in the right direction and give me little pointers. But [00:10:00] it was, it was a lot of work, especially running it out of my apartment.

Samm Stangeland: And, you know, candles are, you have glass and you have wax and you. Shipping stuff and all of that, but it was great because I had so much time to, to teach myself and to practice and, and to really attempt to perfect it. And it’s a science, so there’s a lot of testing involved and then there’s the packaging and there’s, you know, I feel like it’s a constantly evolving

Alex (Host): business.

Alex (Host): I mean, I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t ask about how you, how you come up with this sense. You know, you mentioned hearing brown sugar and saying why isn’t there a candle of this scent of, of this song. Cinnamon girl also makes a lot of sense to me, but you also have sense like sweet emotion. Uh, which side note is one of my favorite Aerosmith songs, but that doesn’t necessarily have an immediate scent that jumps out to me.

Alex (Host): How did [00:11:00] you come up with that scent?

Samm Stangeland: So that was a collaboration that I did with a can a candy company and my friend’s company called sticky, the sweet emotion. I just, it takes me back to the music video and the song. And it’s so fun and it’s right. And you know, the name suite is in it. So I kind of. Took that and ran with it as a little play on words.

Samm Stangeland: But even though the label is bright pink, and it’s just my interpretation of what that song would be if it came to life, you know? Hmm.

Alex (Host): And so, and so how do you, um, how do you even like, like start that, like, how do. Say, okay. This is the, we want something sweet. So something maybe sugary, maybe. How do we, how do you then like go through that process of developing a, a candle?

Samm Stangeland: So obviously it’s fragrance oils that you, you choose from, but there’s so [00:12:00] many out there. And I mean, honestly, it’s, it’s really fun because it’s, you’re kinda like a mad scientist in the lab. but, um, I, for that one, I went with a lollipop scent, cuz it just made. Made sense to the vibe of the song and, and everything.

Samm Stangeland: Um, there’s different ones like strawberry fields forever, which I’ve used a strawberry cheesecake scent instead of like, you know, a strawberry rhubarb or something like that. Um, I really try to just understand the, the vibe of the song and the interpretation and how it makes people feel and what the.

Samm Stangeland: You know, studio looked and smelled and felt like when they were recording the song. And for, for me, I take all that and kind of just channel it into as scent. So I’m sure everyone could have their own interpretation, but these are mine.

Alex (Host): So how [00:13:00] did your experience in the music industry prepare you for launching rock and roll candle company?

Samm Stangeland: It absolutely helped me. Um, You know, every day that we were on site, there was always something that we would need to achieve and no concert goes without their own set of, you know, demands and just issues that you need to solve and, you know, make perfect for the show to go on. There is so many moving pieces that go into a concert that.

Samm Stangeland: Anytime you’d hit a roadblock. You really, you had to figure it out. And it usually was a very timely process as well. So all of that experience has definitely helped me with starting a business and all the quirks and nuances that go into starting a something new. And then B a new, you know, an industry that is a completely different gear from what I’m used to.

Samm Stangeland: So it has absolutely set me up to overcome these. [00:14:00] You know, little speed bumps that happen along the way.

Alex (Host): What does, what does your kind of normal week look like now? And then I’m curious to eventually have you compare it to what your normal week might have looked like in February of 2020?

Samm Stangeland: Okay. Um, well, these days I wake up pretty early and it always kinda starts out with coffee and emails.

Samm Stangeland: Then I’ll, uh, try to get a workout in. And then I have a studio in the arts district where I pour all my candles. So I’ll head there around midday and spend some time there, whether it’s pouring candles or shipping orders or design or. All the elements that come along with it. Um, so I’m usually there three to four days a week.

Samm Stangeland: And then I try to take one day for myself. And then at nights it’s not really seeing concerts anymore. It’s more dinner with my boyfriend or seeing friends not, and then wake up and do [00:15:00] it all over again. But it’s pretty great. Like it’s a much calmer way of life than it used to be working 18 hour days.

Samm Stangeland: And. Working towards something for myself. So that is a great feeling as

Alex (Host): well. One of the things that, um, we, we had talked about before recording this interview is, uh, th this kind of concept that, you know, there’s two different things that really seem to trigger memories really strongly, which is music.

Alex (Host): Um, and scent SC is also. You know, a very strong trigger of memory. Uh, what, what is a stronger trigger of memory for you? Is it music or is it, is it scent?

Samm Stangeland: It’s absolutely music. Um, I’m a firm believer that music is the soundtrack of our lives. And probably because I’m such a lover of music, but, uh, for me, it’s, it’s definitely songs and the experiences that they, you know, have.

Samm Stangeland: Have that they’ve been involved in and the, the seasons of our [00:16:00] life that, you know, an album has got you through or a song or that concert that changed your life or made you think, you know, you could do something differently or all of that. I do love scent. Absolutely. And there’s definitely those, those sense that take you back.

Samm Stangeland: But for me, it’s wholeheartedly music.

Alex (Host): What is, uh, propelling you forward on a day to day basis?

Samm Stangeland: Customers, I love getting new customers and them just, you know, really intrigued with the brand. And I love that I get to be the voice of this candle company and that I get to channel all my experiences in the music industry and, and really just bring this to.

Samm Stangeland: To the masses, I guess, and to, you know, every time I get a sale in a new state, like, it’s just so exciting to me that people are buying something. That was just an idea. Not that long ago. [00:17:00] Yeah. That, and then also just the notion that if other people can do it, so can I, you know, , it’s not always easy. It actually, it’s rarely easy.

Samm Stangeland: It’s definitely a lot of work and hard work and something. Out of my element, but I believe wholeheartedly in the brand. And so. That’s what keeps me going

Alex (Host): this, this might be a bit like asking a parent to name their favorite child. Do you have a favorite candle of yours?

Samm Stangeland: um, I mean, Tom petty is my favorite.

Samm Stangeland: So wildflowers would be, but. I think I have to give it to brown sugar because it is just the one that started it all. And it’s a very universal scent. And I do use a lot of vanilla notes in my bases for all the scents. And that one is CBER Le, which has vanilla vibes. And so, yeah. Probably my favorite. my favorite candle of

Alex (Host): them all.

Alex (Host): If you could, uh, give, [00:18:00] give advice to anybody who, who, whether, whether it’s a candle company or, or not, but somebody who like you maybe has, has had a business idea that is just like tickling in the back of their brain. Um, but for whatever reason, they haven’t made a pivot yet into, into starting that business.

Alex (Host): What, what kind of advice might you give them to either? Nudge them towards getting started or to maybe have the courage to take that step. Uh, hopefully the world isn’t sending a pandemic their way to kind of force the pivot. Uh, so how can they maybe do it themselves?

Samm Stangeland: Yeah. Let’s let’s hope no more pandemics, please.

Samm Stangeland: Um, I would just say that, I mean, take it day by day. You are. One person with a dream. And I think each step forward that you take is getting you closer and closer to the end goal. And it’s, you have to be tenacious. Absolutely. You have to believe in it because it’s a, an emotional roller coaster for sure.

Samm Stangeland: But if [00:19:00] you don’t get going, then you’ll never start, you know, and I think that every little bit. And, and urges you and moves. You moves the needle. That’s a record reference. .

Alex (Host): I love it. Um, alright. To, to wrap things up, Sam, I wanna borrow a question from, uh, the TV show, Ted lasso. I don’t know if you’ve, if you’ve watched, uh, any of Ted lasso yet, but he, he asks, uh, his boss at one point, uh, as an icebreaker.

Alex (Host): Uh, what was your first concert you ever attended? What was the best concert you ever attended? You, you, with your background in the music industry, I wanna hear your answer to that. Okay.

Samm Stangeland: Um, the first concert I ever attended, the first one. Ever took myself to was incubus at the forum in around 2001. I think it was like the Honda civic tour actually.

Samm Stangeland: And I drove myself there with my girlfriend. We sat in the second to last row of the nose bleeds. It was, I mean, we had our, I love incubus [00:20:00] shirts on and everything. It was, you know, it was quite special. And looking back at the photos, it was. I mean, we looked like such nerds, but who cares? and, um, and it’s very cathartic because I ended up producing incubus at, uh, the Triar, which was very full circle.

Samm Stangeland: And I’ve worked probably a hundred shows at the forum and know that building inside and out and have been. On the floor, like closest to the stage. So that one really is very, very, very, very, very special. I don’t, I, I won’t say that the incubus at the trior is my favorite show of all time. I think I have got to give that one to Tom Petty’s last show because I was able to be there.

Samm Stangeland: And, wow. Yeah, I know I had seen him earlier that year at red rocks and it. It was exceptional and so beautiful, but then to, to see the digression of his [00:21:00] hip and he still powered through to put on a show for his fans and what, you know, eventually took him away. Um, but being there was, I mean, there, there really is no greater gift.

Samm Stangeland: Someone who is a huge fan of a band and an artist.

Alex (Host): Wow. Wow. Beautiful. uh, Sam, uh, where can people find out more about, uh, you and, uh, where can they order rock and roll candles?

Samm Stangeland: On our website, And then our, Instagram is rock and roll candle co and mine is Sam with two m @sammstangeland

Alex (Host): Sam Stangland of rock and roll candle. Co thank you so much for joining us on the show.

Samm Stangeland: Thank you. Thank you so much. That was great.

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