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July 2024
Vol. 23, No. 10

Talkin’ Craft

Evolving Creativity: Songwriter Sanctuary’s Next Chapter

by Lindsay WhiteSeptember 2023

Hello, San Diego! Thanks so much to those who came out to support last month’s Noted Song Swap. It was a resounding success, full of brilliant anonymous co-writes from some of the city’s finest songwriters. I look forward to curating the third installment (likely before the end of the year) and watching this series evolve!


A Songwriter Sanctuary concert at Normal Heights United Church. Photo courtesy of Ben Grace.

Speaking of evolution, there are big changes coming to two of San Diego’s staple songwriting showcases. As Ben Grace Gilmore and his life and musical partner Karyn Thurston Gilmore head to Portland for new adventures and more affordable real estate, they’ll be handing the Writers Round SD reigns over to one of San Diego’s most in-demand artists, Lauren Leigh. As for Writers Round SD’s sibling event, Songwriter Sanctuary, I’ll be managing all the back-end admin while San Diego’s Artist of the Year and fellow San Diego Troubadour columnist Jeff Berkley steps into the MC role!

Setting the Stage
The Songwriter Sanctuary offers a unique format that allows music enthusiasts to experience artists performing in an intimate “in-the-round” setting. Here, the focus lies solely on the music, free from any other distractions. Moreover, attendees immerse themselves in the stories and inspirations that underpin each artist’s creations.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the Songwriter Sanctuary series is Writers Round’s partner and venue, the beautiful historic sanctuary of the Normal Heights United Church.

According to NHUnited’s Associate Pastor Molly Lorden, “When you enter the space it may feel both familiar and foreign. An old church building, but with a stark difference to most, its pews arranged in a circle instead of rows. This is intentional. The sanctuary has gathered people and stories over almost a century and claims a future in which all are affirmed as holy and sacred. The Songwriter Sanctuary is an integral part of that future, as musical storytellers from all backgrounds and identities share their art and their reflections with us each and every month. It’s a gift to be a partner and host!”

Shifting Soundscapes

Julia Sage

Paul Cannon

Marlo Smith & Joshua McClesky of Please Ask for Paul. Photo: Heather MCall.

San Diego boasts an abundance of talented artists and come Friday, September 29, we’re thrilled to host three seasoned acts: Julia Sage; Please Ask for Paul, featuring founding members Marlo Smith and Joshua McCleskey; and Paul Sage Cannon. These veterans bring with them a wealth of life and stage experience, which has distinctly shaped the evolving musical landscapes they traverse.

We invited Julia, Paul, Marlo, and Joshua to delve into how their respective decades of artistic independence have shaped and refined their songwriting styles over time:

Julia: “I used to be the sort of artist that only wrote when I was depressed. That is definitely not the case anymore, and I’m grateful for that. Also, even though I’ve been pretty prolific lately, I’ve been feeling a bit like a ‘channeler,’ and I’m just composing things that are coming to me from a different place that I’ve been tapping into somehow. I know it may sound a little strange, but it’s just the way it feels to me when the songs come so quickly and just pour like water. I gotta say, I’m not mad at it.”

Paul Sage Cannon: “My musical sound, lyrics, and themes have evolved over time by becoming more intimate to my personal journey in life. I started learning more about my Native culture, the iPai Kumeyaay Nation, and began incorporating parts of my heritage into my music. Today, I write music with the intention to tell my story of transformation and peace so that future generations may do the same.”

As for Please Ask for Paul, co-creators Marlo Smith and Joshua McCleskey crossed paths through prior folk-based endeavors. The encounter “unearthed authentic buried artistic expressions,” propelling them on a cosmic indie trajectory, characterized by moon-jeweled vocals and atmospheric guitar.

Marlo: “After sharing songwriting duties in a previous project, Please Ask for Paul challenges my writing and validates my instinctively unique perspective of storytelling.”

Joshua: “I’ve found the electric guitar to be the most efficient way to express my creative mind, my greatest gift. Please Ask for Paul allows me to explore all avenues of my wandering creativity with full acceptance. Having found the right partner to vulnerably share ideas with has radically expanded our writing, offering a collective sense of freedom in our art.”

Much love to our artists for taking the time to reflect on the evolution of their craft. Based on their thoughtful responses, we eagerly anticipate an evening of music that is both rooted and winged. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating these incredible acts and their work on Friday, September 29. Please visit Eventbrite page for more info and to RSVP.

Thanks for Talkin’ Craft with me! If I don’t see you September 29, I’ll meet you back here next month with more from San Diego’s vibrant songwriting community.

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