This year, Spoleto Festival USA welcomes Watchhouse, the duo of Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz that has been captivating audiences with their blend of bluegrass, folk, and Americana for over a decade. For some they are better known as Mandolin Orange, their namesake until 2021. The change was spurred by loss and new life and indicates both a familiar and refreshingly new act – Watchhouse. 

The name Mandolin Orange reflected the core instruments that drove their sound: the mandolin and the orange fiddle. However, the band’s entire catalogue conflicted with the name, an early-20s holdover that never quite aligned with the music they made.  

“We have long been burdened by the dichotomy between our band name and the music we strive to create—if you’ve heard the songs, you know they are personal” says Marlin. 

After releasing and performing their 2019 album Tides of a Teardrop, a tender accounting of Andrew’s mother’s early death, he was tired of touring. Being paid to relive a lifetime of grievances and griefs onstage became ever more arduous, even exhausting. 

However, after becoming parents to Ruby late in 2018, Emily and Andrew worked through a batch of guarded but hopeful songs. Those songs became a temporary relief and offered a new way to think about an established act and we’re released on their 2021 album Watchhouse. 

“Now that we can see a future where music is a shared experience again, we’re defining the space we share with you on a stage or in your headphones and making it one that welcomes our creativity and anyone who wants to listen,” says the band. 

Watchhouse is a moniker inspired by Marlin’s place of childhood solace.  

“Watchhouse comes from a memory – a place where I spent memorable, secluded, and meditative time as a teenager. During those same years I learned how music wasn’t just something that happened. It’s a place, it’s gravity. It was an escape, and I began spending all my time there. I wrote song after song and found someone to share it with when I met Emily,” says Marlin. 

This shift to Watchhouse signifies a creative evolution, a move towards a more expansive sound that wasn’t confined to the limitations suggested by their original moniker. Their upcoming performance on Wednesday, June 5 at the College of Charleston Cistern Yard will be the perfect platform for Watchhouse to showcase their artistic metamorphosis, and for audiences to witness the next chapter for the duo.