While Australian Idol auditions are now in full swing, a 24-year-old rapper from the Pilbara could not be more excited to show his home town what he is capable of as the country tunes in to the final rounds of auditions. TJ Zimba, a Zimbabwean-born hip-hop artist who spent his childhood in New Zealand before moving to Karratha, credits the regional town for his creativity and performance style of alternative R&B. “I feel like being put in such a small box and being in such an isolated place made me more free,” he said. “I learned as an artist and as a performer how to think outside of the box and how to grow my talent and not rely on people — learn how to do things as far as I can by myself. “It’s such a massive place and it’s a place where I can just clear my mind and be grounded. The city is so noisy, but Karratha is so peaceful and so silent. “Seek peace, find solitude and that’s what Karratha is to me. I guess that’s what I love about it, the red soil really produces an awesome flower.” Since he first performed on stage at his local church, TJ knew from there he had the talent to pursue the profession — delving into different genres of music and spending his free time watching Grammy performances and half-time Super Bowl shows. “From Katy Perry and Tyler the Creator to Prince, Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber — I watch all of them, all the good performances,” he said. “You name a good performance and I’m telling you, I’ve watched it and I can even tell you what timestamp they did it. I feel like my influences are what I’m trying to capture on the show.” While juggling full-time studying in physiotherapy and mixing beats as a producer, TJ pushed himself and auditioned for a singing competition and television show Popstars New Zealand in 2021. Despite coming second in the competition, TJ said he had a lot to learn from the experience — looking after his mental health by learning to slow down and realised that it’s OK to say no to things he’s uncomfortable with. “I was too focused and had somewhat of a tunnel vision on that goal,” he said. “I feel like the difference to Australian Idol is that I really want to enjoy this, like it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in front of the biggest audience — I want to get up there for a while and build my name back up there naturally. “So I think I just want to enjoy it and go for the ride, really look after myself this time. Portray myself how I want to be portrayed, which is me.” As a self-described calm and collected person, even TJ felt nervous seeing his fellow Australian Idol competitors audition — reminding himself to enjoy the experience and urging others to “waste as little time” as they can if they know their calling. “I think my goal and purpose on this show is to show that there is talent in WA — we are worthy,” he said. “I want to shine some light on the African community and the Indigenous community, people who look like me, I just want unity from this. “I want people to feel inspired and feel like you can do it if I can. I came from Karratha and if I can do what I’m doing, you have no excuse not to do what you want to do. “I’m grateful to be here and I’m doing this for us, I’m not just doing this for me. There is a community and there’s a bunch of people who deserve to see someone like us on TV. “There’s a city that deserves to see how fruitful it is, Karratha is very fruitful. “The biggest thing my mum would always say to me was do not curse the land you came from, because you won’t reap the fruit it has to offer. “As small-town kids, do not hate your city. I know you can’t wait to get out, but really take advantage of everything that you have. “I know it might not seem like a lot, but peace and solitude is one of the biggest tools, which is very hard to find in the city.” Catch TJ Zimba’s audition on Wednesday, February 7 on Channel 7 and 7plus, with judges Kyle Sandilands, Amy Shark and Marcia Hines searching for the next generation of singing sensations.