Singer and songwriter, Tobechukwu Victor Okoh, popularly known as Peruzzi, hit the limelight with his single, ‘For Your Pocket’ remix featuring Davido. The DMW signee who also worked with Tubaba on the song, ‘Amaka’, in this interview with OLAITAN GANIU, speaks on how he auctioned his car to save his late mum, why he dumped studying medicine in Ukraine to pursue his music career, among other issues. Excerpt
How did you come about the name, Peruzzi?
Peruzzi is an Italian goalkeeper and I used to be a goalie in high school. So, my friends just gave me the name. That is it. There is no bad guy meaning to it. And for my hairstyle, I started making my hair four years ago. Initially, I wasn’t carrying this particular style but after some time, I just tried this and I love it.
From nowhere, you stormed the industry. Can you share your grass to grace story with us?
I was a member of choir in church, always in church on Sunday, choir practice on Saturday, prayer meeting on Wednesday; I am a church boy.
My dad is a deacon and mum is also a deaconess and I have two sisters. I am the only son. So, I learnt how to play from the piano my dad bought for me when I was young. The first song I ever learnt was ‘this is thy day father love, I will rejoice…’ so, every morning devotion, my family must sing the song with me (laughing).
However, in high school, I used to sing in a group and after I went to the university to study medicine and surgery at Odessa State Medical University, Ukraine. My first year, I didn’t do music at all because I had to be serious but during my second year, I went for a party with my course mate, and I was set up by them to sing. I performed and guests at the event liked my voice. So, I was encouraged to pursue singing. So, this prompted me to hit the studio and record a song and I began to shuffle between school and studio. At any free period in school, I would rush down to the studio to record like eight songs because I might not have time again.
It was after my fifth year in school that someone stole my passport and I was fed up with the whole thing. In that period, I was seeing things happening in the Nigerian music industry and I knew I could do better which of course record labels had started contacting me. Extreme Music is one of them. They always called to invite me to Nigeria. After a while, I decided to process my document to come back home. I didn’t even tell my father I was coming home (to Nigeria); I only told my immediate sister and mother. When my father saw me, he thought l came home for a holiday and that was my struggle.
…did Extreme Music later sign you?
As at the time I came back, I didn’t hear anything from them again ooo. But, after some months someone from Malaysia signed me. He put me in an apartment with other artistes and was sending money through somebody and that one is fond of carrying different girls. One day, I was like ‘guys, I am out. I’m fed up with this shit.’ That was how I absconded. I left telling them not to contact me again. Up till today, I don’t pick any of their calls nor reply their messages because I don’t want to have anything doing with unserious fellows.
So, that was how I left for Abuja to start a new life.
Did this mean you didn’t get your family’s support during this time?
When I came back to the country and my dad ordered me to go back to school, I had to leave the house and rent an apartment close to the house so that I could still be getting food from them because my dad had stopped giving me money.
In fact, for three years, my dad was still pressurising me to go back to Ukraine and complete my study. He even called a family meeting and all that. They were like ‘how can you leave medicine for nothing?’ and even my girlfriend also separated with me due to this pressure. I started taking alcohol but I decided to channel my anger into writing songs just to prove my critics wrong;
Tell us about your first official single.
While in Abuja, I met a Golden Boy, Patrick, who has money and I have the talent. So, we recorded my first song entitled, ‘For your Pocket’. After the release of the song, we relocated back to Lagos but, unfortunately, two days after I lost my mother to cancer.
Before we recorded the song, we had an agreement to promote the song. So, as I was crying, I was also sharing the song on social media. I opened people’s mails, twitters and Instagram to drop the link even though many blocked me, I kept doing it.
Do you think if you had completed the medicine and surgery study, you would’ve saved your mum?
When we realised my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I had to put my car on auction, so that I could get drugs from my doctor friend in India, but unfortunately I could not get the drugs due to ban on importation of some drugs into the country.
Any plan to go back to school?
Of course, yes, I didn’t quit school; I only put my admission on hold and of course, I still see myself going back to complete my degree but I don’t see myself sitting in the hospital to work, not at all.
How do you get inspiration to compose your songs?
I am a very wide and wild thinker. Things that happen around me also serve as motivation like ‘Majesty’ is a story of what happened to me.
Tell us about the ‘Majesty’ video.
The video brought back the song I dropped last year to show that I am ahead of the game. Yes, because I dropped the song last December and people are just catching the vibe now. I still have five more videos to reel out this year. And I am also working on my album which is the compilation of different vibes. Fans should watch out for my concert which is coming up in October.
Do you have a proper contract with Davido?
He is my friend and I am under his record label. Davido has artistes who have been living with him for 13 years. Which contract?
So far, would you say you are fulfilled as an artiste?
I am not satisfied, because I have a big dream, but yes.
You’re one of the celebrities people criticised on social media
I’ve come to realise that no matter what you do, people must talk. So, whenever they talk, I always try to ride on the wave. I don’t allow criticism to swallow me because I want to stay out of trouble, so I always walk away, listening to music and sleeping off.
What is a craziest thing female fan has done to you?
A lady in Cameroon once mistook me for Davido despite my long hair (laughing).