As a genuine lover of all music, Bellingham local Ryan Sandholm isn’t afraid to blend genres. Around town, he’s known for his acoustic shows that fuse pop, rock, and country. The result is a unique sound, with influences from artists such as Collective Soul, Dave Matthews, and even Prince.

For Sandholm, music runs in the family. “I started playing music following my dad’s footsteps,” he says. His father’s band just celebrated 50 years. Like his father, music became a lifelong pursuit from an early age, as fundamental to his wellbeing as working out or finding a steady income.

“Music is something you have for you, and no one can take it away from you,” Sandholm says. “Whether you’re sitting down by yourself with your guitar, or playing in front of a bunch of people. They’re both equally important.”

Sandholm grew up in Campbell River, B.C. and moved to the states to play college hockey in Boston. When he wasn’t busy on the ice, he began bouncing around, performing shows and developing his sound. He soon established himself as a regular performer at local pubs.

Wanting to be closer to home, Sandholm eventually moved to Bellingham and launched New Heights North Landscaping. Not long after, he began forming groups with local musicians. He’s been a longstanding member of the Bellingham music community ever since.

Today, Sandholm has played at every local venue possible, preferring the intimacy of smaller places like Fireside Martini and Wine Bar on Bakerview. He also enjoys performing at bigger events, like the annual Dirty Dan Harris Festival in Fairhaven.

Sandholm writes much of his own music, striving to craft lyrics free of anything superficial or “fluffy.” His focus is always on the heart. Most of his songs are about love, Sandholm says, punctuating the comment with a soft chuckle.

In addition to writing his own music, he also plays tunes the crowd will recognize; covers can be tricky, though. Sandholm tries to find a balance between playing music the audience will respond to while also making sure the sound is still uniquely his own.

After inheriting his father’s love of music, Sandholm has worked hard to pass the tradition onto the next generation. He considers music a forever craft, one without age that can fuel an endless passion.

Every child should pick up an instrument, Sandholm believes. His daughter and sons have learned to play a 120-year-old piano—an heirloom in their family. One day, they will inherit the piano just as he did.

For Sandholm, when all is said and done, music collapses into a simple feeling. “For me,” he says, “[music] is a huge part of who I am and what makes me happy.”

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"For Sandholm, when all is said and done, music collapses into a simple feeling. 'For me,' he says, '[music] is a huge part of who I am and what makes me happy.'"