In the parking lot of The Village at Hendrix, Justin Warren '09 points to his car. "I rock a Sentra," he said, pointing to a well-worn Nissan. But it's all he needs to carry his trusty Ibanez acoustic-electric guitar. Warren is a one-man show.
Surveying Market Square before setting up to perform a brief set of original songs at Village Books, Justin is blown away by how different his alma mater looks after only one year.
"This is crazy ... I can't believe this," he said, admiring ZaZa Fine Salad and Wood-Oven Pizza Co. and envying the Hendrix students who get to live in the loft apartments above the two commercial buildings.
After his set at Village Books, Warren, a theatre major, will join fellow Hendrix alumni in Cabe Theatre for a reading of Hendrix alumnus Werner Treischman's new play Disfarmer about the life of eccentric and iconoclastic photographer Mike Disfarmer of Heber Springs.
When Your Hendrix Odyssey: Engaging in Active Learning was introduced in 2005, the Little Rock native wasn't sure he even wanted to go to Hendrix.
"I really didn't want to go to college in Arkansas," admitted Warren, who attended Episcopal Collegiate School.
But Justin's father told him there was a "pretty good liberal arts school in Conway."
He's glad he listened.
"From the first moment I stepped foot on campus, I felt like I was home," he said.
"I'm so thankful I came here. I did stuff here I never dreamed of."
Justin was in the first class to graduate under Your Hendrix Odyssey. During his four years at Hendrix, he studied abroad for a semester in London, performed Shakespeare with a group of Hendrix students at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, and enjoyed an active campus social life that included Ghost Roast, concerts in the Burrow, and working with visiting playwrights like Rebecca Gillman.
Hendrix also offered an outlet for Justin to perform music.
"I used to play at Coffeehouse and Red Light Revue," he recalled.
The opportunity to play music was important to Warren. His grandmother was a church music minister and his mom "sang all the time."
"I started playing guitar when I was 15," said Warren. "I used to listen to a lot of Nirvana and Incubus, and it kind of evolved out of that."
Justin soon began writing and recording his own songs at home on a four-track recorder. In addition to guitar, he accompanied himself on bass, piano, and drums.
Fortunately his parents approved of his musical pursuits.
"That's one of the really cool blessings in my life. They're supportive of anything I do as long as it's fairly constructive," he said.
Warren's first album is called Violet and he recently completed a follow-up titled Every Which Way. Both were recorded at his home studio, which consists simply of a laptop and a microphone, he said.
"My newer stuff is kind of Prince-inspired and kind of John Mayer-ish," he said. "And vocally, Seal is a pretty big influence."
In addition to his Hendrix campus performances, he has also performed in Little Rock at Juanita's and has appeared with Ocean, a former college band, at Riverfest.
Now that he's completed college, Justin balances his passion to perform music with his work as youth director at First United Methodist Church in Little Rock.
Though he went to a United Methodist college, he didn't plan on working for the church.
"It wasn't calculated at all ... just coincidence, which is kind of funny," he said. "I wanted to give back to my community, so I applied for a lot of nonprofit jobs."
Like his college choice, he's glad it happened the way it did.
"It's really cool. My group is very open and very mission-oriented," he said, adding that he meets with about 30 to 50 students each month.
"I'm getting a lot out of it," he said. "It's a true church family. I actually feel like I fit in."
At 23, Justin's journey is just beginning. He's writing new music and continuing to perform live theatre.
"At this point, I don't know where I'm going next," he said. "I kind of take it one day at a time."
For more information, visit www.justinwarrenstudios.com.