History of The Secret Commonwealth
"The Party that Became a Band"
Troy Guinn starts college at Middle Tennessee State University in January. He moves into an apartment with his friend, Jack Hunter Daves, Jr., who has already been attending the college for about a year. Jack always has a big party on St. Patrick's Day, and he suggests to Troy that they should learn some Irish tunes to play at the party, as a surprise for all the guests.
Jack buys a tin whistle at a Scottish Festival and practices on it any chance he gets. Rob Campbell, whom Jack and Troy had met in October of '92, joins them in their plan to work up a set of Irish music.
Jack names the band The Secret Commonwealth, after the book by 17th century clergyman Robert Kirk.
- March 17th - The Secret Commonwealth debuts at Jack and Troy’s St. Patrick’s Day party. They are joined by their friends (and big influence) The Shakers.
Though there are no hard plans to continue as a band, TSC is asked to play a succession of parties, events, and writer nights over the next few months.
A borrowed mandolin is added to the instrumentation (Rob and Troy basically learning to play as they go along).
- July 1st – TSC plays first headlining show at The Boro Bar ‘n Grill.
- December 7th – Accordionist Eric Torstenson plays first show with TSC at Blue Sky Court. Headlining the bill is Cumberland Rose, side project for Rebecca Stout of the Shakers.
- March 17th - Band plays St. Patrick’s Day at The Boro, which becomes an annual tradition.
- Fiddle player Calpernia Addams joins the band, making TSC a quintet.
- The Sherlock Holmes Pub opens in Nashville.
-Vocalists Danielle Johnsen and Laura Joseph join Secret Commonwealth late in the fall of the year.
- October 1st & 2nd – The band plays the Nashville Highland Games.
- December 10th – TSC plays The Sherlock Holmes Pub for the first time. This show is played in true “pub” style, with the band sitting in a corner and playing acoustically. By a few more shows, TSC is using a full PA, leading to the Sherlock Holmes featuring live music on a regular basis.
The Sherlock Holmes becomes the “home” for The Secret Commonwealth, and the band plays there virtually every month for years.
- March 17th - Danielle and Laura’s first show with Secret Commonwealth (at The Boro)
- Viola player Wayne Mehl begins to play frequent gigs with TSC.
-May 13th – Band plays Guinnbash, Troy’s annual party with live music, and their friend Franko Hashiguchi sits in on guitar and hammered dulcimer.
-May 29th – Uncle Don Clark opens for TSC at The Boro. This is also Calpernia’s last show as a regular band member, although she will play intermittently with TSC over the next couple of years.
-November 25th – Several demos are recorded to 2-track DAT in the basement of Troy’s parents’ house in Kingston Springs, TN. Engineered by Wayne Mehl, these so-called “Basement Tapes" are notable for conveying the energy of the band, and may still see an official release someday.
-December 1st- TSC opens for popular Scottish band Old Blind Dogs at Michelangelo’s Coffee House.
-June 29th- Band plays Sherlock Holmes Pub and, a little burned out and wanting to take stock of things, goes on hiatus until:
-October 5th - TSC returns to play The Highland Games, which moves from Nashville to Murfreesboro. TSC will regularly play the festival for the next three years.
-January 25th – Fiddler Michael McCanless plays first show with TSC at Sherlock Holmes Pub. While McCanless is a very in-demand player, he will play a number of gigs with the band throughout the year.
- March 17th - Debut CD, The Secret Commonwealth, is released.
A friend of the band, Chris Munson, is working at Nashville's legendary RCA studios and is able to engineer the sessions during a couple of weekends (all taking place before groups of tourists standing behind the glass!). Even so, the entire album is engineered and mixed in less than 30 studio hours, but it satisfies the band's need to get some product out there!
- January 31st – Swedish singer/instrumentalist Malin Jonsson performs a solo set at TSC’s Sherlock Holmes gig.
- A new Irish pub, Seanachie, opens in Nashville. Secret Commonwealth plays a series of shows here, with Calpernia Addams joining a few of the gigs on fiddle.
- July 7th - Danielle Johnsen and Eric Torstenson leave the band and play their farewell show on this date, at Seanachie.
- The remaining lineup (Jack, Troy, Rob, and Laura) use the downtime to record some demos at RCA Studio B in September.
- October 3rd - While still searching for new members, TSC plays Heart of Tennessee Scottish Celebration in Murfreesboro. Eric Torstenson helps out and Troy’s brother, Jeremy Guinn, plays percussion.
- November 20th – Fiddler Kevin Arrowsmith plays first show as a member of TSC, an Irish Dance celebration in Nashville.
- December 10th – Accordionist/multi-instrumentalist Seth Timbs plays first show as a member of TSC, at Sebastian’s in Murfreesboro. They open for Seth’s main band, Fluid Ounces.
- February 10th – Malin Jonsson plays first show as member of TSC, at Sebastian’s.
- December 31st – TSC plays New Year's Eve celebration at Sherlock Holmes Pub, an event they will repeat for the next three years.
- Kevin Arrowsmith and Seth Timbs quit the band in late summer.
- October 28th - Fiddler Jennifer Halenar plays first show as member of TSC, at Sherlock Holmes Pub.
- December 31st – Bagpiper/bassist Emmy Davies plays first show as member of TSC, at Sherlock Holmes Pub.
- Emmy Davies leaves the band in summer.
- In the fall, the band begins recording second CD, Uninvited Guest
- January 31st – Bassist Jeremy Guinn (Troy's younger brother) plays first show as member of TSC, at The Boro.
- February 15th - TSC plays on Dr. Gangrene’s Chiller Cinema, a popular local horror/comedy/variety show.
- October 24th – Uninvited Guest, the band’s second CD, is released. TSC plays at The Boro, which is Laura Joseph’s last show before leaving the band.
- February 1st – Former TSC fiddler Michael McCanless dies from cancer at the age of 41.
- March 14th- TSC plays Fox Morning Show.
- October - Malin Jonsson and Jennifer Halenar leave the band. After 10 years, and feeling the need to try other things, The Secret Commonwealth plays its “Farewell” show on October 18th at Sherlock Holmes Pub.
- March 17th - TSC plays a reunion gig at The Boro. To open the night, Jack, Rob, and Troy debut their new band, The Exotic Ones.
- August 23rd - Jack Hunter Daves, jr. dies of a staph infection at the age of 42.
- October 4th – Many past Secret Commonwealth members and other musicians gather at Sherlock Holmes Pub to play a memorial show for Jack Hunter Daves.
- Uninvited Guest is nominated for two awards in the Just Plain Folk Independent Music Awards: Best Celtic Album and Best Celtic Song (“The Uninvited Guest”).
- March 17th - TSC plays reunion show at The Boro. This begins a series of reunion shows that feature varying lineups comprised of past TSC members, and also longtime friends/fellow musicians Uncle Don Clark and Franko Hashiguchi.
- April 9th - TSC plays at Sherlock Holmes Pub. This will be the band’s final show at the Sherlock Holmes, which closes its doors in fall of 2005.
- March 17th – Reunion show at the Boro.
- November 4th – TSC plays a Celtic Festival in Jackson, Tennessee. The lineup is Rob Campbell, Troy Guinn, Uncle Don Clark, Franko Hashiguchi, Kevin Arrowsmith, and Eric Torstenson. Around this time, the idea of being a full-time band again starts to get kicked around…
- Work slowly begins on the third TSC album, recorded and engineered by Seth Timbs. The plan is to record the remaining original songs that did not get recorded for the first two albums.
- TSC decides to form a regular band again. The initial lineup is Rob Campbell, Troy Guinn, Uncle Don Clark, and Franko Hashiguchi.
- October 6th - TSC plays Heart of Tennessee Scottish Celebration in Murfreesboro. Jennifer Halenar helps out on fiddle.
- March 17th – Fiddler Ron Ault plays first show as member of TSC, at the Boro.
- February 21st - Malin Jonsson rejoins the band and the new six-piece lineup plays at French Quarter Café in Nashville.
- TSC lands regular gigs at French Quarter and Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor in Franklin.
July 16th – Ron Ault plays his final show with TSC
August 21s – Secret Commonwealth plays gig #300 at Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor!
September 4th – TSC’s plays The Celtic Cup, a coffee shop in Tullahoma, TN for the first time. The cozy little den quickly becomes a favorite place for the band and its fans, with TSC typically playing 5-6 shows there a year, as well as regular appearances at the annual Piping On the Green festival held on the venue’s grounds every April!
January – Malin Jonsson leaves band.
March 12th – TSC plays the Franklin Main Street Brew Fest.
May 1st – TSC plays the Franklin, TN Main Street Music Festival.
May 9th – Work resumes on the 3rd Secret Commonwealth album, with Brian Carter and Jeremy Dickens as co-producer/engineers.
July 30th – The French Quarter Café closes its doors and Secret Commonwealth plays as part of the venue’s final night.
October 7th – Fiddler Rebecca Waine becomes the newest member of TSC and makes her debut with the band at 3 Brothers Deli and Brewhouse in Murfreesboro, TN.
October 16th – TSC plays the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, TN
November 13th – TSC plays Chattanooga, TN, for the first time, at The Honest Pint pub.
March 17th – For the first time ever, the audio for Secret Commonwealth’s St. Patrick’s Day show is streamed live over the internet, via the website www.mindcoup.com, and attracts 15,000 listeners! This is also the band’s #350th show, and former member Eric Torstenson plays with the band for the first time since 2006.
July 14th – TSC pays tribute to its late founding member, Jack Hunter Daves, by performing a night of his music on the weekend he would have turned 50. The show is held at the Boro Bar ‘n’ Grill. Former members Seth Timbs, Malin Timbs, and Laura Joseph join TSC for the tribute, and the Exotic Ones perform as well.
July 27th – TSC plays Knoxville, TN for the first time, at Boyd’s Jig and Reel. This is Rebecca Waine’s last show with the band.
October 26th – On the 10th anniversary of the release of the album “Uninvited Guest”, TSC performs the album in its entirety at Kimbro’s Picking Parlor. For this performance, they are joined by former members Jennifer Halenar, Laura Joseph, and Malin Timbs. During the show, the band premieres its first professional music video, for “Scarecrow Walking”, directed by Jeffrey Nelson and Rick Kimmel.
December 15th – Tracking is completed for TSC’s third album.
March 16th – The third TSC album, “Last Call” is released, as the band plays Brewfest in Franklin, TN.
March 17th – TSC celebrates its 20th Anniversary with a St. Patrick’s Day performance at The Boro.
August 23rd – Fiddler Linda Gale Joins Secret Commonwealth for her first show at Kimbro’s.
August 30th – TSC plays Huntsville, ALA, for the first time, at Humphrey’s Bar ‘n’ Grill.
September 13th – TSC plays their 400th show, at 3 Bros in Murfreesboro.
September 14th – TSC plays a “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day” Celebration at Kavanagh’s Irish Pub in Mt. Juliet, TN.
October – TSC launches a video channel on YouTube!
October – “Last Call” is released on 12” vinyl, making it the first-ever TSC release in the ‘ol classic LP format!
April – Linda Gale leaves TSC to continue her schooling and to do more world traveling.
May – TSC plays the Tennessee Renaissance Festival for the first time, playing the Celtic-themed weekend at the long-running event. By 2017, the band will be performing for the festival’s entire month-long seasons!
May – TSC releases its first 45rpm vinyl single, with “Scarecrow Walking” as the A side and “In the Old Ruins” on the flip. Great Halloween jacket are is provided by Ethan Black.
August 9th – TSC plays the Bull & Thistle Pub in Gainesboro, TN, leading to semi-regular gigs there until the Pub closes in 2018.
September 23rd – First recording session for the fourth TSC album, working title: “Lager & Blood”.
September 12th – A new Scottish festival, the Middle Tennessee Highland Games, holds its inaugural event on the grounds of the Hermitage. TSC will become a regular in the lineup each year.
TSC’s 23rd Anniversary St. Pat’s show is played at the legendary Nashville Palace, opening for Spider Stacy of The Pogues, TSC’s greatest influence!
Fall – Fiddler Vicky Plant begins rehearsing with the band.
December 3rd – Vicky Plant plays her first show with Secret Commonwealth, at the Radio Café in Nashville. The release of the fourth album is also delayed so that Vicky can put fiddle and backing vocal tracks on the songs.
March 11th – TSC becomes regular performers at the Arts and Ales festival in Winchester, TN
September – the fourth album, “Lager ‘n’ Blood” is released.
The band celebrates its 25th anniversary with its first livestream concert, from a house party on March 16th, and then a St. Patrick’s Day show at the venue where they played their first “club” shows, The Boro Bar and Grill in Murfreesboro, TN.
March 17th – Band plays 27th anniversary St. Patrick’s Show, then goes on hiatus from live performing due to the COVID pandemic.
November 14th – With all live performances still on hold, TSC gives a livestream performance from bandmember Rob Campbell’s backyard.
December: In the Just Plain Folks Independent Music Awards, TSC’s “Last Call” album places 2nd in the Best Celtic Album category. “Man Overboard” places 5th in “Best Celtic Song”, and “One Shot” is 5th in the “Best Roots Song” areas. “Field of Bannockburn” and “Scarecrow Walking” are also nominated.
May – After 14 months, COVID vaccines allow for public gatherings and festivals. TSC returns to live performing with their 7th appearance as part of the Tennessee Renaissance Festival.
June 19th – Former TSC fiddler Ron Ault passes away at the age of 67.
September 11th - For the first time in two years, the Middle Tennessee Highland Games is held. TSC plays two sets at the festival, which takes place on the grounds of Nashville's Percy Warner Park.