Tasting Grace

Rock Music Was In My Heart

Vocalist/acoustic guitarist Jenna Milano still remembers playing the 45s she inherited from her father who passed away when she was four. The collection of classic rock included Pat Benatar, Journey, Pink Floyd and the Who.

"When I put those records on, I would run around the house and play air guitar," Milano said. "I just loved music. As I started getting older, rock music was in my heart."

Bassist Willy Toledo's life-changing moment took place in Puerto Rico. Toledo, who had been playing bass for 20 years, was sitting in his house watching music videos and decided to take a chance. He headed to the mainland United States to take a crack at playing in a popular band much like the ones he saw on television.

He tried out for 20 different bands in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.

"It was a hard decision, but at the same time it was the right decision in my life," he said.

Lead guitarist Drew Ambrose decided to buy a guitar after hearing Green Day. He found the music easy to emulate and soon found himself playing his first barre chords.

However, it was Korn that made a strong impression on the young guitar player.

"I was sold on that sound forever," Ambrose said. "It made me buy a seven string (guitar)."

Equipped with numerous stories of the significance that music has played in their lives, the three eventually became a part of the Red Bank-based band Tasting Grace.

Formed nearly two years ago, Tasting Grace is focused on creating its own success to deliver its intense lyrics and musicianship to the masses.

A great deal of its time is spent sending press kits to radio stations.

"We're business smart and street smart," Ambrose said. "We definitely know what needs to be done to sell records."

The band promotes itself through blogs and other Internet sources. It also stays educated on the music business and networks with others in the industry. The band continues to market online, where its members feel the music industry is headed.

Nowadays, bands need to develop a fan base for its music prior to signing with a label, Ambrose said. The Internet is a useful tool in creating a buzz for fans to find the band, he added.

"Like any business, you have to work hard to make your business bigger," Milano said.

The band plays a style of music that is dark, but true-to-life, honing in on topics and emotions that listeners might find tough to face, yet easy to relate to. Milano's voice treads a solid path towards both the feelings and lyrical messages she attempts to convey. Her band mates are well-armed with an arsenal of chops to color up the bittersweet taste of Tasting Grace's compositions. The band recently completed a music video for the song "Ever After."

Lyrically, Milano said she tends to focus on relationships, heartbreak, love and sadness. She aims to reach listeners who attend high school, who might have just starting experienced the emotions she conveys.

"I try to write where people can relate to what I am singing about," she said.

Milano also focuses on creating CDs that are as special for the listener from start to finish. The first three songs the band wrote were first created on Milano's acoustic guitar and resembled the music of Jewel. Upon hearing them, Ambrose indicated that turning them into rock songs would be no problem. Ambrose continues to compose the band's musical beats on a computer.

Ambrose played mostly in punk bands during high school and spent five years in the band Flipside, before joining Tasting Grace.

After getting hooked on Korn, Ambrose got into bands like Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit.

"At the time, anything that Ross Robinson produced, I was into," he said. Robinson has produced the albums of Korn, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot and Cold. Ambrose still emulates the effects, distortion and sound quality of that music in his own.

Though Toledo played in a pair of bands while in Puerto Rico, Tasting Grace is his first in the U.S. He first began playing bass after hearing Iron Maiden. He eventually was influenced by metal bands like Slayer and Metallica, prior to hearing Nirvana and getting hooked on the grunge era.

Milano, who played in a band during high school, was in a female acoustic duo during college.

Though she listened to a lot of dance music growing up, she always maintained a love for rock spurred by her father's record collection. She once walked away from a recording contract with a major label, as she preferred to sing rock music rather than dance.

At 11, she became interested in the music of Metallica and Pantera.

"That pretty much stuck with me for a long time," she said.

Milano took the acoustic route as she became a teenager and listened to artists like Sara MchLachlan and Fiona Apple.

"I just loved the way they sing," Milano said. "The emotion that they put into their songs is incredible."

At 19, she moved to Jersey City and got into the club/techno scene and crossed over into the hardcore scene, once that faded.

"(Tasting Grace's) music is pretty much everything that I love all in one," Milano said.

[ Website: www.myspace.com/tastinggrace ]

Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.