Listening to concert footage of the band Taneytown, with their Southern twang and lyrics praising the small-town lifestyle, it would be easy to assume the members of the group were born and raised in Carroll County. That assumption grinds to a halt the second the song ends and they introduce the next in fluent Dutch.
The band first formed in 2003, nearly 4,000 miles away from their namesake, in rural areas of the Netherlands.
The band, inspired by musicians like Chris Knight, Rod Picott and Bob Seger, took their name from the Steve Earle song "Taneytown," off of his 1997 album "Corazon." The song is not the greatest advertisement for the city — including mention of the fictional lynching of an African-American man and lyrics like "I went down to Taneytown/I ain't goin' back there anymore."
In the liner notes of the album, Earle admits the name of the song is taken from Carroll's Taneytown.
In an email interview, singer Edwin Jongedijk said everyone in the band was a fan of the song and the town sounded like a prototypical American country town.
"We wanted a name that would trigger people who don't know us to take a listen. It sounded country, and the link with Steve Earle as a musical reference was important for us when we just started," Jongedijk said. "Also, we wanted a name we could identify with. When the name Taneytown was a serious option we found out that it was an existing town with a lot of similarities to the towns we grew up in."
Country 4 You, Scandinavia's largest country music website, recently declared Taneytown one of the best country bands in Europe.
The band consists of four members, guitarists, singers and songwriters Jongedijk and Joost Prinsen, bassist Martin Wieringa, and drummer Niek Stok. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2006.
Jongedijk said it was not a challenge to take on the sound of country music.
"We are used to seeing all the American movies and TV shows. They are subtitled here, so you can hear how Americans speak," Jongedijk said. "And we are hearing those American accents since we were very young. I guess you pick it up when you are sensitive to it."
Over the years, the group has built a relationship with the City of Taneytown, visiting and performing concerts four times in the past decade.
The group was brought here after Linda Snyder, of Taneytown, discovered the band's website while searching for the city. She reached out to the group for an interview for the Taneytown Record, a story that eventually made its way overseas to the Jongedijk's home by two Dutch residents living in Maryland. Jongedijk said people who brought them the story were big in the music scene and arranged for them to come over to perform at Northwest Middle School in 2006.
Initially the band was planning on staying in a hotel in the area, until Keymar resident Larry Webster heard about the band.
Webster, who heard about the group's upcoming concert from Taneytown's Economic Development Director Nancy McCormick, offered up his own home for the group to stay.
"We had no clue who these guys were at the time, and when they stepped out of the car, my wife's first thought was that these guys could be a bunch of pot-smoking hippies," Webster said. "Then, one of the guys came up and gave Linda a big hug, and we instantly found that they were the nicest group of fellas."
The band stayed two weeks with the Websters, who had four extra bedrooms in the home after their children had left for college. Jongedijk said he was so impressed by the small-town hospitality they expressed.
"We loved the people we met. It was like a warm blanket being wrapped around us," Jongedijk said. "On the first night we were in town, we were invited to the Fish Fry and we got the key to the city, amongst other gifts. We were totally blown away with the warm welcoming."
By the end of the two weeks, Webster said his family and the band had become incredibly close. They've remained in touch over the years, with members of the band visiting individually over the years and members of his family visiting them in the Netherlands.
"The guys have really become just like family," Webster said. "It all snowballed from that chance meeting."
In Earle's song, he pronounces the name of the city "Tan-ee-town," a mispronunciation that affected the group's name for several years. They said once they came to Maryland, they learned the proper pronunciation — "Tawn-ee-town" — and have used it ever since.
Jongedijk said it was nerve-wracking to perform in America, the birthplace of their style of country music.
"We like it that we can write about just the normal things in life. We don't have to make up stories," Jongedijk said. "Real country music is about life. And of course we like the way a good country song sounds. The melancholy works for us."
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Since that initial visit, the band has returned to Carroll three times: in 2007, 2008 and 2013. They say Taneytown and Carroll remind them of their rural roots in the Netherlands.
"I think we didn't chose to write in a certain style. It's what comes out of our hands when we pick up a guitar and jam," Jongedijk said. "All band members grew up listening to American music, whether it was blues, rock and roll or country music."
Jongedijk said country music is not that popular in Europe and Taneytown is one of the few groups to emphasize a rocking style of country.
"The problem with country music in Europe is that it's connected with country line dance," Jongedijk said. "We don't cater to the line dance crowd and we do our own thing. If people want to have fun by dancing, that's fine, but it's all about the music we want to get across."