NewTracks New Artist: ZExII

NewTracks New Artist: ZExII

The name ZExII seems somehow to embody energy (including the challenge of figuring just how to say it), and the Ōtepoti popstar artist who goes by that name has a view that a good single is a song that has “leadership energy”. In fact, he’s making ‘big music energy’ a thing – and you heard it here first. He’s also produced a single, called Indigo, that NZ On Air included on their NewTracks compilation this November.

What’s your given name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My name is TJ Zimba, I’m from Dunedin and I play about 11 instruments. Drums, electric guitar, piano, keyboard, bongos, xylophone, marimba, kalimba/mbira, ukulele, bass guitar and a few more. 

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

I think my music lessons in intermediate laid the foundations for me with my music playing abilities. Having lessons boosted my confidence. Even now I have vocal coaching and I definitely feel like it’s helped me improve my vocals, and it has pulled down mental barriers and doubts I had about my voice. 

Any other previous projects might we know you from?

There are, but I will never tell you guys that. I was so young! 

What’s the background story of how you came to perform under the name Zexii? 

There isn’t really a huge story behind the name ZËxÏÏ. It was just me being extra for no reason. It came from my last name being Zimba and people calling me Zee. But that artist name was taken, so I spiced it up. Pretty much ZËxÏÏ is the instructions to spelling Zee. The x is a times sign and the II is roman numeral for two. It’s like Z and then E times two. The dots on the top mean change sound, because I‘ve changed the sound of that word ZExII from being ‘Zexy’ to it being pronounced ‘Zee’. Like I said, hella extra. 

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

I think my writing definitely has more meaning now. Now that I have a purpose and a goal, which is to incorporate healing into my music. I believe music is the thing that people use to seek refuge from their problems, and I am aware of how it can be used to heal. I guess the older I get I want to tap into that and be mature with my lyrics. My old stuff was always about girls who I’ve never met before or didn’t even know I existed. I like the stuff I write about now, I’m not afraid to be raw with my emotions in my lyrics. 

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

I think my biggest highlight was throwing a concert and Q&A at my old intermediate this year. It might just be my favourite performance of all time. 

How and when did you come up with the name for the new single?

My management team and producer suggested it and talked me into it. It grew on me. I didn’t really want to call it Indigo, because I hate naming my songs with titles that already belong to like a hundred other songs. I wanted to name it ‘Can’t keep chasing you’, but we ultimately decided to go for the catchy name. 

What makes Indigo stand out for you as a single?

I think Indigo stands out because there’s nothing like it. It’s a mix and blend of so many things. It’s like an alt/RnB/pop/psychedelic/hip hop track. It’s a good night drive song too. 

What is the story behind Indigo?

Oh man, I would love to tell you what Indigo is about. But I think I want it to be up for interpretation. However, with that being said the main concept of the song is to respect yourself and stop chasing people that would never put in effort for you. 

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

My two favourite things about Indigo is my “ee’yeah” ad-lib and the acoustic guitar chorus where I harmonise my voice like Lorde did in Royals, or like Queen did in Bohemian Rhapsody, but like the ZËxÏÏ version. 

Who did you write/record/produce the single with and where? 

I co-produced Indigo with Timon Martin and Ben Malone. The song was written by Timon Martin, Aidan Fine and myself. 

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

To give yourself some self-respect. To realise that that energy you waste on others who don’t use their energy on you could be utilised on yourself to vibrate on a whole new frequency. 

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

I think for me a single is just something that has leadership energy in like a project, or just sonically. Like big music energy. It’s a thing. I’m making it a thing. If you hear people say big music energy, it’s because I said it first! 

Who else is in your team?

Damn, my team is, like, pretty big right now and I can’t wait for it to keep growing. I am a big advocate for loyalty and the concept of the people I started with are the people I want to finish with. My producers are Timon Martin, Will Henderson and Ben Malone. I’m managed by Augusta Avenue (Jayden Heoghan, Charene Siakimotu, Jono Boswell and Lance Cathro). My most frequent collaborators are Sky Hine and TîMMyTheFirst. My band consists of Rani Cohen, Tom Sharp, Isaac Chadwick and Rapture Latu. My sound guy is Logan Anderson. Lastly, my choreographer is Eden Yin. I’m not signed yet, but I am open to the idea, I am not anti-label. 

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

I am trying to get into film scores and that’s all I’ll say about my other musical endeavours. Unless word gets out about this other project I am working on. 

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

  • Balu Brigada: Favourite Clothes 
  • Y$O: Cotton Candy
  • Mikeyy: Notice Me
  • Six60: Never Enough

I know that’s four, lol.

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there? 

Yeah, pretty much all my tracks have never made it on funding. It’s not going to stop me from trying. I think my biggest advice is to keep applying and don’t let making the cut validate you. You are great if you believe you are great, it’s a lottery sometimes and not being accepted this round doesn’t necessarily mean your song is bad, or that you’re a bad artist. 

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? 

There was the live performance aspect. I’m still working on it. I can’t deny that networking and being nice has gotten me far and helped me get more live opportunities. 

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

In terms of YouTube channels, I’m really into Genius, Vox, Kurzgesagt, ASAP Science, Kaleb City, Buzzfeed, Tiny Desk, Key & Peele, Looper, Watch mojo, and Sway In the Morning. I like science and music. 

Any last words?

There’s this dope and beautiful person that looks back at you every time you look in the mirror. If you’re reading this, can you go to tell them that they’re loved and that they’re a champion and they have a 100% pass rate of surviving their hardest and worst days? 

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