Acoustic Spotlight: Mike Llerena

What inspires you when you write music:

Typically, I’ll have some sort of melody first. I’ll sit down with an acoustic guitar and try to work out what I’m hearing in my head, just humming and playing along. Once I have the bare bones of the music, I’ll try to put words to it.

Most of my songs are written in first person and influenced by things that are going on in my everyday life. However, I’ll also write lyrics that try to incorporate an overarching theme that relates to me, someone I know or more general things that I’ve observed.


Who are some of your biggest influences when writing:

Green Day was the gateway band that got me into punk rock and writing music in general. In a lot of ways, that early influence still permeates my songwriting sensibilities. After that, I got into bands like Against Me!, The Gaslight Anthem and Hot Water Music, who are still among my core punk influences.

On the flip side, I refer back to a lot of the classics my dad showed me as a kid: Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, The Beatles and The Band. Bruce Springsteen and Frank Turner are also big songwriting influences.


Tell us about the song and what it means to you:

Hope Is A Gateway Drug: This was a song I wrote for my last EP Letter of Resignation. I had the intro guitar riff for a while before arranging the rest of the song and writing the lyrics. This song isn’t about any one person and I think people can probably interpret the title/lyrics in different ways. Personally, I thought of it as a reminder or affirmation for anyone who’s working toward a difficult goal.

End of the Line: My last release Letter of Resignation was very heavily acoustic-based, so it’s been really fun breaking out the distortion for the recording of my upcoming EP. This was actually the last song I wrote for this album. It’s a fun-sounding song that involves not-as-fun subject matter.

Dear Lonely: Definitely more on the “sad bastard” side of the song spectrum. Really sparse arrangement and one of the few songs where I’m fingerpicking. This is another song that will be on my upcoming EP.  

Rosanna: I think unrequited love is something that a lot of people relate to. You’re drawn to someone, but there’s no guarantee that they feel the same way. “Rosanna” is about how those people can sometimes drive us crazy until we eventually get over them.

Saturday Night: This song hasn’t been released in an official capacity yet, but I’ve been playing it at shows for years. It’s slower and more soulful than some of my other stuff, so it’s a fun contrast in the live set. Simply put, it’s about taking the time to stop and smell the roses, or have a beer with your friends. As a wise man once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” 

Basket Case: I really like playing this cover at shows. Green Day were one of the first bands to get me into playing music. On one hand, it’s a way for me to pay tribute to one of my influences, but it’s also just a fun song that a lot of people grew up with.


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Mike Llerena is a singer-songwriter based in Gainesville, FL. While currently performing as a solo acoustic act, Llerena, a multi-instrumentalist, records his songs with full instrumentation. 

Following the release of his debut EP “Gold Gone Black” in 2014, Llerena’s latest release “Letter of Resignation” blends elements of rock, folk and punk with introspective and emotionally charged lyrics. The album was recorded at Z-Chord Studios in Gainesville, FL and was produced by Mike Llerena and Jared Pennock.

In November 2015, Llerena made his festival debut at The Fest 14 in Gainesville.

After opening for Anthony Raneri of Bayside in June, he is currently recording his third EP.

Photo Gallery: Camron Thompson


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