As the guitarist and musical director for the Bret Michaels Band, Pete Evick plays upwards of 200 shows a year to rock and roll fans all over the world. But on the rare day when he’s not performing onstage, Evick spends his time pursuing a much different endeavor—creating and selling scented candles with his Shining Sol Candle Company.
Evick founded the operation in 2012 and offers candles in various sizes and in more than 50 scents, all of which are available on the company's website, ShiningSol.com. This Friday, September 30, he's also opening the first brick-and-mortar Shining Sol candle shop in his hometown of Manassas, Virginia.
Evick took a few minutes to speak with Guitar World about how he developed an interest in candle making and his unique approach to the craft, including his creation of officially licensed candles from Twisted Sister, Def Leppard and other rockers. Finally, he gave us an update on what’s happening with the Bret Michaels Band.
How did you come up with the idea to start making scented candles?
Well, the Bret Michaels Band basically tours nonstop. And at one point, we had been out on the road for about nine months solid. When I got home from that, I was just spending some time enjoying the peace and quiet in my house. And one of the things I did was, I went to a candle store and bought a candle that was supposed to smell like a fire burning in a wood fireplace—because I don’t have an actual fireplace. So I got this candle, and I was lighting it every night just to help me relax. But it didn’t smell very good.
Finally I said to myself, “I’ve never had a hobby in my entire life, but I wonder if I can make a candle that smells better than this.” And so for a couple months I learned everything I could about making this one candle. By the time I figured out how to do it, I had also learned so much about the candle industry. From there, I realized there was an opportunity to start a business and also teach my kids a little entrepreneurism. The initial idea was almost to have like a lemonade stand on steroids. I wanted it to be something my kids and I could do together, and then just see what happens.
You use soy wax in all of your candles. Why?
I started making the candles out of soy wax because I’m big into the ecofriendly thing. Paraffin wax, which is what candles are generally made from, burns toxins, and a lot of people are learning they don’t want to do that anymore. If you’ve ever had that black soot in your house, that’s paraffin wax. So now there’s this whole movement toward soy wax. Because it’s nontoxic. So I was excited about that. And I was also excited about the fact that the wax is made here in the U.S. So when we started Shining Sol, it was about building a business, about teaching my kids how to do business and also helping to support the American economy.
Now you’re opening up a brick-and-mortar store as well. How did that come to be?
I’m born and raised in Manassas, Virginia, and I’ve always been a hometown boy. In the city of Manassas, like almost every town in America, there’s a movement to revitalize the old-town area. So they’re looking for unique small businesses. And there was this wonderful retail space that became vacant. So the opportunity came to me, and I brought in two partners and we talked to the city and the council and everybody else about it and they were very supportive of it.
More recently you also began producing officially licensed rock band candles. How did that develop?
It started with Twisted Sister. I’m good friends with some of the guys in the band, and also their agent, Danny Stanton. They’ve been doing their 40th-anniversary tour this year, and it’s also their final tour. So I had an idea to make a candle for them. I created a candle tin that looked like the cover of their Come Out and Play album, and I said, “Guys, what do you think about doing a licensing deal and I’ll sell these candles?” They thought it was a cool idea and so we struck a deal. And Twisted Sister have a song called “The Fire Still Burns,” which seemed an appropriate name for the candle. I made it similar to the one I made when I started the company—it smells like a campfire. And it caught a lot of attention in the music community. People thought it was really cool.
So after that, I said, “Who else would be good for this?” And I thought of my buddies in Warrant—a “Cherry Pie” candle. How could you not do that? We were playing a show with them and so I mocked one up and showed it to the guys. I said, “What do you think of this?” And it was, “Oh, we love it!” So we inked a deal. And that one sold really well. And the interesting thing is, for the longest time I was trying to separate the candle business from the music business. And everybody was always saying, “Why don’t you merge the two?” And then the Twisted Sister thing happened, the Warrant thing happened, and all of a sudden I was doing it.
You also have a Def Leppard candle.
That was the next one that came along. I reached out to the band and they hooked me up with the company that does their licensing. For them, we did a “Pour Some Sugar on Me” candle that has a pink sugar scent, which is a very popular fragrance right now. Then we also did a tongue-in-cheek thing and made a “Pyro-Mango” candle. We mixed cinnamon and mango and came up with a unique scent that’s selling really well. And Def Leppard’s licensing company, they also handle bands like Aerosmith and Kiss, so we wound up making a deal for all three acts. Now we have an entire line of rock memorabilia candles, with more coming.
Is there any artist that you would love to do a candle with someday?
I have several artists in mind that make sense to do this with, but me being a lifelong guitar player, I would love to do a “Light Without Heat” candle with Steve Vai. I think the title makes sense, and Steve, he’s a candle guy. Every picture you see of him in the studio, he always has candles burning. So at some point I would like to pursue that.
Finally, what’s new with the Bret Michaels Band?
Well, last week we headlined the [SiriusXM] Hair Nation Festival at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre [in Southern California]. Irvine was one of the biggest, coolest outdoor venues in the country, and it’s closing this season. Bret had played there several times with Poison and we’ve also done it with him for solo shows. And Vince Neil was the co-headliner with us, and he had played there with Motley. So it was a very surreal, emotional moment for a lot of the artists, knowing it was the last time any of them were ever going to be there. It was a huge turnout and a great show.
Other than that, we’ve been on the Party Starts Now 2016 tour. We’ve done all kinds of record-breaking attendance all across the country, most of it at outdoor venues and festivals. Now we’re going into the fall so we’re going back to the indoor spots. We go right up to New Year’s Eve with a bunch of sold-out shows. We’ve also been doing some shows with Warrant and Ratt. And we’ve been out with Lita Ford and Firehouse a lot this year. And the fans are coming out. Over the summer we did a lot of the big amphitheaters with 15,000 or 20,000 people showing up. In a world where they talk about the rock and roll industry dying, there’s still a lot of people still coming out to see it. So we just keep going.
For more information on Shining Sol and to purchase candles, visit ShiningSol.com. Or visit the new Shining Sol store at 9109 Center St., Manassas, VA 20110