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Joe Peluso, House Projects, Creativity, Music and Self-Fulfillment


May 13, 2020


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Joe Peluso is the Marketing Coordinator at Complete Payroll. He's also a colleague and a close friend. Joe and CJ work together pretty closely and took a break from the day-to-day to chop it up about how they're during amid the current state of affairs. Their conversation over a drink ranged from house projects and self-fulfillment to music and creativity. Below you can watch the full video or read the transcript. Enjoy!


CJ & Joe Discuss House Projects, Creativity, Music and Self-Fulfillment



Conversation Highlights

We spoke for about 30 minutes and touched on the following:

  • Joe finally getting around to painting his apartment.
  • CJ finally getting around to building his vegetable garden.
  • Why this current time is a great opportunity for making/creating things.
  • Why creating something provides people with so much joy and fulfillment.
  • How Joe got started playing music, and why he loves playing in a band.
  • Our shared hope that people will use this opportunity for self-reflection and doing whatever it is that makes them happy and fulfilled.

Full Transcript

CJ Maurer: (00:16)
This is really fun for me. For those of you who don't know who Joe is, Joe Peluso is the marketing coordinator at Complete Payroll. It's a company I used to work for, so we used to work together at the same company. Now we actually work together at different companies.

Joe Peluso: (00:32)

CJ Maurer: (00:33)
Joe and I know each other pretty well. We interact on a weekly basis, multiple times a week, almost daily, I would say. And in my quest to just record these Zoom conversations with people and publish them, which I'm, finger quoting, calling my 'podcast.' I'm super excited to have somebody that I know really well, and probably has a lot of cool things to say about this weird interesting time that we're in, as well as other things that I hope we can get into. So Joe, thanks so much for joining me.

Joe Peluso: (01:08)
Oh buddy, my pleasure, dude.

CJ Maurer: (01:11)
One of the things that I know is that Joe recently... By the way, your apartment looks great.

Joe Peluso: (01:17)
Yeah, right? Freshly painted.

CJ Maurer: (01:18)
I was going to say, so tell me about that for a second. I know this is a weird thing to start on, but I know you had talked about painting your apartment for a long time, and you recently have done that. Like how do you feel about it?

Joe Peluso: (01:34)
Oh dude, it's night and day. I've been in this apartment, it'll be three years July 1st, and I've been meaning to paint it the whole time. And I've been able to paint it, and have taken baby steps over the course of those three years to like actually do it. But I just, for some reason never paint it. And then this stuff happened, and I knew I was going to be holed up here for a while, and I know [crosstalk 00:02:05]

CJ Maurer: (02:04)
You realized that every excuse you ever had not to paint your apartment was eliminated.

Joe Peluso: (02:10)
Absolutely. I was completely out of excuses, and I just wanted to keep my hands from idling during this time, because I know me, and I know that if I just sit here and I just like be a pile on the couch and watch Netflix all day and stuff, I'm going to hate myself for it. I remember thinking in the very... Like once I realized that this was going to be a thing for a while, I was just like, "I can't... I have to come out of this. I just have to have something to show for this. I have to have like a receipt for this, at some point." So the painting was the first thing, and I had a friend of mine like help me morally, and actually physically came and helped, before they were super extreme about like, "No people at all."

CJ Maurer: (03:01)

Joe Peluso: (03:02)
But yeah, I mean honestly, like... And the one day I woke up, it was a Saturday morning. I had the stuff, I had everything ready to go, and I was sitting on my couch looking at this stuff, and I just was like, "Let me just go over there." So I started, it was real little things. Like I took a light switch plate off the wall, took that off. And then I was like, "All right." And then I was [crosstalk 00:03:28]

CJ Maurer: (03:28)
That was the beginning of it.

Joe Peluso: (03:29)
It was how it started. It was one little [crosstalk 00:03:30].

CJ Maurer: (03:31)
Just a little Phillips head, and just...

Joe Peluso: (03:33)
Took that off. Then I...

CJ Maurer: (03:34)
And now you're renovating your apartment.

Joe Peluso: (03:36)
Exactly. And then I was moving stuff into the one room, and then I took... I remember I took the brush, like I had the thing off, I had some stuff moved, and then I just took the brush, dipped it in the can, and just splattered it on the wall. I was like, "We're doing this now." And so that was probably 10:00 in the morning on a Saturday. I don't think I stopped until about 9:30 that night. And I got that dining room area and then the hallway done. And then I did this living room the next day, and it was way easier. I had never... I painted one room ever in my life, I helped my cousin to it once. I had no idea what I was doing. I kept screwing up. I kept... Like every time I went to go start rolling, I was like, "Ah, I've got to cut the ceiling in." You know what I mean? It was like little stuff like that.

Joe Peluso: (04:28)
But got it done, it doesn't look... In terms of craftsmanship, it's nothing special. But I did it, and now it's the color I want, and I got stuff on the walls now. I have...

CJ Maurer: (04:43)
Most importantly, you did it.

Joe Peluso: (04:46)
100%, that's it.

CJ Maurer: (04:47)
My dad always used to say that you always appreciate something more when you put in the sweat equity.

Joe Peluso: (04:53)
Yeah. Yep.

CJ Maurer: (04:55)
That's cool. Yeah. I had a similar situation. For years, I had been saying that I was going to do a vegetable garden someday, and I always found an excuse not to do it. And over the weekend I literally built this raised bed, and it looks really nice. And I'm super proud of myself, which is probably why I'm bringing it up. But I think the larger point is that I didn't do it for a long time, and I think consciously or subconsciously, I think I went through a similar mental process as you, where you said, "Okay, we're going to be doing this for a while. Am I going to waste away during this time, or am I going to make something of it, where when I look back I'll be proud that I..." Maybe I didn't ring every single drop out of this cloth off in terms of the opportunity that this is giving me, but at least I took advantage of it to a reasonable degree.

CJ Maurer: (05:48)
And it also, again, started the same way. I literally did it this past weekend. So the weekend before, I was doing some stuff around the house, around the yard, spring cleanup type stuff. And I was looking at this section right behind my house where I've always planned to put this vegetable garden. It's in terms of maximizing sunlight, this place is right behind the back of my house is in the perfect position. In fact, my neighbor has a vegetable garden right in the similar spot on their house, where it's literally pointing in the same exact direction, gets a ton of sun, and they've had this vegetable garden for a couple of years. And so, I finished all of my weekend projects sometime Sunday, mid afternoon. And I said, "I think the next best thing to do next weekend is to put in this vegetable garden." And I did nothing else at that time other than commit it to thought.

CJ Maurer: (06:51)
Previously, I had in my head figured out... I know what I need to do to build a vegetable garden. You put in posts, right? I happened to put in some plywood, and then I reinforced it with two by eight's around the outside so it kind of looks nicer. And just a couple of other things. But it got to the point where I was halfway through the week, and I was like... Wednesday or Thursday where I talked to my wife again, and I said, "I think this weekend is when I should do it." There was a huge pile of brush there, it was the section where I knew one day would be the vegetable garden, but because I live in a city property and I don't have access to just throw branches or excess dirt or whatever into the woods somewhere, I just kind of always dumped it there.

CJ Maurer: (07:42)
So Saturday, all I did was clear all that property. I had to transplant some plants. I have a little campfire, one of those fire pits, so I burned some brush. And moved stuff around and threw some other stuff out, and then just kind of cleared it. And then I had just enough time to go to Home Depot on Saturday evening, did that, and then Sunday woke up and just built the whole thing. And now it just needs dirt and seeds, which is still a lot of work, but I'm planning on doing the dirt part again at least this weekend. And again, it was all started with the previous weekend saying, "I think it's time to do that." And then that Saturday, being out in the yard that following Saturday, and just starting to clear up the brush. And then once it was cleared, it was like, now I really have no excuse to do this.

CJ Maurer: (08:34)
And that story took way longer than I thought, but I'm proud of it. That's why I want to talk about it. And I think this is actually hitting at a larger theme here, because you and I are sitting in our respective homes in opposite ends of the city limits. I'm in South Buffalo, you're in North Buffalo. We're on a recorded Zoom chat right now, doing a, finger quotes, 'podcast,' and I'm going to share this, because I just want to put this content out there. And this is another thing that did not exist before this quarantine. It is another thing that in the back of my mind is something that I wanted to do, for... I don't know, to varying degrees for a little while, but I never had the time. I never had... Like what am I going to make a podcast about, do I even want to talk about what I do for work all the time?

CJ Maurer: (09:41)
Quite frankly, I'm not sure how much I want to make it all about what I do in my career. But nonetheless, here I am, doing something that didn't exist before. I also happen to know through your work that you're creating a lot of content. You always do, but through this current situation and how it impacts employers, and specifically clients of Complete Payroll, you're exhibiting leadership and putting a lot of content out there, publishing recorded Zoom chats on your own. And it kind of just made me reflect on everything that we're going through. And people talk about it as a period of social isolation. They call it a pandemic, our current crisis. There's a lot of labels that are applied to the current situation we're going through. Recently, I've kind of had the realization that it seems to be, if nothing else, a period of creation or invention.

Joe Peluso: (10:47)

CJ Maurer: (10:48)
Maybe invention, but specifically creation. People are starting to do podcasts. People are painting their homes, people are starting vegetable gardens. Businesses are, on the cut of a dime, shout out to LeSean McCoy, at the drop of a dime, shifting how they do business to enable delivery, remote orders, online access to their products and services or their knowledge and expertise. And I'm really energized by everything that's going on right now.

Joe Peluso: (11:27)

CJ Maurer: (11:29)
I will end this monologue by asking you what do you think about my theory, that we may look back on this period one day as a period of creation?

Joe Peluso: (11:39)
I agree. I think you're right. I feel like I read something... I know you bought a new mic for this, but they were saying like podcasting mics were one of those items on Amazon you could, you know what I mean? You can get.

CJ Maurer: (11:54)

Joe Peluso: (11:55)
Yeah, Blue mic. Like that was the thing, it's like just standard USB podcasting mics and stuff. Like yeah, people are finding new ways to create stuff, for better or worse. I mean, we shared something today where it's like a lot of what's being created is the same, which is understandable because everybody... I imagine there's not huge swings in opinion about what's going on. This sucks, and everybody thinks so.

CJ Maurer: (12:24)
For clarity, there's this incredible video on YouTube that somebody cobbled together, where it was just like, short clips of every single major brand's COVID 19 inspired commercial, and it's all the same slow piano music and the same pans of empty stadiums and street scapes, and it's all the same tropes, and it's absolutely hilarious. Whoever compiled that was a genius.

Joe Peluso: (12:55)
It's so spot on. And then that other one too, that that copywriter did, I thought it was really great. Where she was just like, "We're a brand." Like, I don't know, it was just... It's great stuff. You should, wherever this lives, you should link to it, for sure.

CJ Maurer: (13:10)
Yeah, I will, I will. What did they... Just like write it as the generic, like, "Here's your COVID 19..."

Joe Peluso: (13:16)
We're a brand. And I don't know, I'm going to butcher it if I try and do it, but it's great. Well, it's in that chats room. I'll send it to you.

CJ Maurer: (13:27)
Well, if your shirt is any indication, I think butcher is what you're supposed to do to it.

Joe Peluso: (13:32)
Oh, hilarious. But yeah, I do think... I mean, people either to... I think it's just people have time now. That's always everyone's excuse for everything, is there's no time. And now there is. Now everyone has all the time in the world to indulge this stuff. And people are learning what me and other musician friends of mine have known for years, which is creating stuff is like the salve for everything. You know what I mean? Like it's an amazing way to release anxiety and depression, and it's a way to make sense of things and express emotion and stuff. And so, yeah. People are doing it all the time. Whether it's podcasting or making music in different ways, people are doing remote band practices and things. Just before I hopped on, I saw this... I don't if you remember a band called Goldfinger, like the ska band from the 90s.

CJ Maurer: (14:52)

Joe Peluso: (14:53)

CJ Maurer: (14:54)
Didn't they have... Did they have a song on the Tony Hawk video game soundtracks?

Joe Peluso: (14:58)
I think so. But yeah, Goldfinger. They had a pretty... Here In Your Bedroom was a pretty big song. And the drummer Darren, he was a guy from Buffalo, so you'd see him around all the time. But they just released... They've been releasing videos of their songs, just the four of them all record in different parts of the world, and edit it together. There's a lot of bands doing that. Even bands from Buffalo are doing collaborative things like that, where they're doing live streams and Patreon and stuff like that. And then people are writing more, or painting, collaging and doing all kinds of stuff. Just to pass time, but also to sort of indulge some creative itch that they either never had the time or the inclination really to do. And it's fantastic. I think it's awesome.

CJ Maurer: (15:55)
I think it's great too. I did confirm that the Goldfinger song, Superman, was on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater soundtrack. It was one of the few video games that I played as a kid. I played very little... I spent a very little amount of time playing video games. My brother got a...

Joe Peluso: (16:14)
I was never a big video game guy, either.

CJ Maurer: (16:16)
Yeah, my brother got a Nintendo 64 I, so when I was a kid-kid, when I was young, like maybe six, we had a super Nintendo. And I got really into a Super Mario. I really only played that and one other game. And then years later... I didn't play video games for a while, then my brother got an N64, and I remember playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater on that. And maybe a couple of other games. I know GoldenEye was big on that, but I don't even ever remember playing GoldenEye.

Joe Peluso: (16:46)
GoldenEye was so much fun.

CJ Maurer: (16:49)
Yeah, I know. I remember being at parties or sleepovers in middle school and stuff, and everybody was like, tag teaming. Four player GoldenEye was a big deal.

Joe Peluso: (17:00)
Oh yeah, it was great.

CJ Maurer: (17:03)
So yeah, I'm glad to hear you say that. And I think your perspective on that, especially in terms of creating things, making things as a way to express yourself, relieve stress, tension, just find enjoyment, really resonates with me. Because one of the things that I'm realizing as I get older and older is one of one of the things I enjoy most is just making stuff. And it could be for me only, it could be just for my family, it could be for public consumption like this, but I love making stuff. I love making food, I love making my vegetable garden. I love building things, like I build a fence or whatever, a gate. I like making content. I like working with my clients to make things like webpages, and all sorts of communication. I like making stuff. It is therapeutic and it's fun.

CJ Maurer: (18:01)
And so I really resonate with your assessment on the current situation, and why maybe this period of creativity is a really great thing. You did mention music, and I know that you're in a band. I also know that your band is called the Soul Butchers, which is why I know that you're wearing your own band's t-shirt right now.

Joe Peluso: (18:23)
Yeah. There's nothing wrong with it.

CJ Maurer: (18:23)
Absolutely not. Are you kidding me? I don't have a band. I was never a musician. I was on sports teams and I've worn my own... I was on the swim team in college, so sometimes I wear... [inaudible 00:18:35] my own team, even though it's been however many years.

CJ Maurer: (18:38)
So there's absolutely no shame in that. Tell me about what it's like... So clearly you're somebody who is familiar with making stuff, creating stuff.

Joe Peluso: (18:50)

CJ Maurer: (18:52)
What drew you to become a musician, and why do you still pursue it so passionately today?

Joe Peluso: (19:00)
Yeah, I'm trying to think. I think it was always... Music was always around when I was a kid. My mom loved music, always had music playing. My my dad as well. I'm trying to think. I got started playing music in like... I think it was fourth grade, and it was like...

CJ Maurer: (19:23)

Joe Peluso: (19:23)
It was one of those things where... What was that?

CJ Maurer: (19:26)
The recorder, in fourth grade?

Joe Peluso: (19:28)
No, that was third grade. But we did, we did do that.

CJ Maurer: (19:29)
Three Blind Mice?

Joe Peluso: (19:31)
So that was actually... Yeah, I guess that was technically the first instrument that I played. But fourth grade was the grade where you could be in orchestra or band or something like that, and you could rent an instrument and take lessons and all that. So I just... For some reason I just thought I had to do that. And I had friends who all played trumpet and saxophone and stuff like that, and I thought that was really cool. But I have asthma, and my mom thought that was going to be... She didn't want me to play an instrument where I had to breathe like that. She thought it would be bad for me. So I was like, "All right, well what can I do?" And she's like, "Well, your cousin Charlie played cello." And I was like, "All right."

Joe Peluso: (20:18)
So I didn't play cello. I played violin for a year, when I was in fourth grade. And I got pretty good at it, like it was whatever. But halfway through the year, I remember... It's weird how you remember this stuff, but I remember walking through Allendale elementary, and I'm walking down the hall and my buddy Kyle is walking the opposite way. And he's pushing this cart and it's got tympani and snare drums and cymbals and all kinds of stuff on it. And I was just like, "What is this?" And he's just like, "Yeah, I'm coming from Band." And I was like, "Wait, you play drums?" And he was like, "Yeah." And I was like, "You could do that? I didn't think that was even an option." So yeah, I remember probably that day, I went home and I was like, "All right, I'm not playing violin anymore." Like I have to wrap up soon, to rent it, and I was like, "I'm playing drums." It's like, that's it. "I want to play drums."

Joe Peluso: (21:10)
So that was it. And it was fifth grade. So I was probably nine or 10 years old. And then from there it was just that, that's all. I mean, I always played it, and then I started... I didn't really start playing in bands until... I started playing drums, like on a drum kit in probably sixth grade. And then I started playing in bands when I was in high school. And it was just because there was a band in my high school. Like I remember my buddy was friends with them.

CJ Maurer: (21:41)
Like jazz band or something?

Joe Peluso: (21:43)
No, they were like a band.

CJ Maurer: (21:44)
Oh, cool.

Joe Peluso: (21:44)
Like they were these four dudes who were called Joshua Judges Ruth. They were named after these three consecutive books in the Bible or something like that. But they were all seniors. My buddy was in high school, I wasn't in high school yet, and he had their tape. I remember they recorded a tape. All original music, it was like six songs, up in Watchmen studios in Lockport. And I was like, that blew my mind. I was like, "Wait a sec, you could do that?" Because as a kid, you don't think about... Like there's people writing these songs. You know what I mean? Like, it's just a weird thing. You don't ever think that you could do that. That's just for other people.

CJ Maurer: (22:28)
Like you don't need for somebody to grant you permission.

Joe Peluso: (22:30)
Yeah, or something, whatever. I don't even know how it worked. But I was like, "Oh my God, there's people my age writing songs." And they were awesome. I loved them. And so when I was a freshman, the one dude, Andy, was the drummer, and he was a senior when I was a freshman. But like instantly I would just tag along [inaudible 00:22:49] I loved him. And still decent friends with him. He lives in New York city now, he's a professional musician.

Joe Peluso: (22:58)
But that was it. I was just like, I wanted to get into a band so bad. And my sophomore year, I got a drum kit for my birthday in November. And then immediately was like, I want to have people over and play. And so I started, I became friends with my buddy Jim. And we tried to start a band, it was all covers and stuff, but it was just like little by little. And just that feeling like when you're... When you write a song. I remember the first song we wrote was about this girl that I had a huge crush on. And he started... it's like you pull... Like the song doesn't exist, right? Like obviously the notes exist, there's chords and stuff like that, but the song doesn't exist. And then all of a sudden, out of thin air, somebody pulls a song out of thin air. And you start playing with it. And all of a sudden after some time, you've created something that never existed before. Like that's never existed before, right?

Joe Peluso: (24:03)
And I remember that feeling, like we finished that song, and I wrote the words to it, and he sang them, and it just was a song. I remember we went to Guitar Factory, we bought this four track recorder, and we did it like overdubbed. I mean, we had a tape. It's got to be somewhere. But it's just like that. I just immediately became obsessed with that feeling, like collaborating with somebody, creating something out of thin air. I remember playing it for people and just like that feeling where you're just like, "I did this." You know what I mean?

CJ Maurer: (24:44)

Joe Peluso: (24:45)
I don't know. It was just such a great feeling. And so, yeah, I've been playing in bands on and off ever since high school, but lately it's been... I've been with the Soul Butchers now for three years, it'll be... Yeah, just past three years. But I've been in bands in one way or another since I was probably 16 years old.

CJ Maurer: (25:08)
That's awesome. Yeah, I think that there's probably a lot of people in different creative disciplines that could relate a lot to what you do, regardless of what their craft is. Maybe they're artists, maybe they're... Quite frankly, there is a lot of people who run businesses that say, "I don't have a creative bone in my body." And I think that's bogus, because if you run a business, you literally created something. Like we often refine, or rather restrict, our interpretations of creativity to something through the arts, which certainly the arts is creative. But there's a lot of people, teachers, doctors, business people, who are incredibly creative in the ways that they innovate. They find new ways to make their product more accessible, more effective, more efficient.

CJ Maurer: (26:04)
And I think one of the things that I'm hoping to see, I think it's coming out of all of this, but I'm hoping that we will continue to see, and I certainly hope that when we look back on this, this COVID time, we will identify it as one where the creative spirit was brought out of a lot of people. As a community at large, but also like each individual. Because as you said, there's really nothing more rewarding than making something, and then just looking at it. Whether it's something you can physically look at, or you finish song and people clap, and you just sit there and smile and own it, and feel the completion of it. Feeling the completion of it is something that is so rewarding, and anybody, whether they're a chef or a musician or a lawyer or contractor, whatever, knows that feeling. And I think this is a unique time, because again, we're left with more time and more self-reflection, and literally more opportunity to do that.

CJ Maurer: (27:17)
But I aspire to be in a world where more people can create that own self satisfaction for themselves, because I think everybody should feel that way. And I think it would create a lot more... I think it's contagious, is what I'm ultimately trying to say. So that's kind of one of the things that compelled me to do this, is not just because I'm running out of excuses, but because I just want to put my fingerprints on something. Like that's really what's compelling me to do it. And I don't really care if I check the YouTube stats on this in 12 years and seven people have viewed it. Like it's okay for me, what the important thing is, is I created some type of connection, something that could be of value, and I put it out there. And I put myself out there in the process. And that's the thing that I'm really enjoying about all this.

Joe Peluso: (28:14)
Yeah. I think that's right. But also I think people... I mean it's not... I'm like, I love music and I love all that, but it's definitely not like... I disagree a little bit. Like I think that there's people who don't have a creative bone in your body. Like there's some people that just... They don't. And I think that they... Like somebody, I forget who they were, they sort of put a finger on like that people are starting... People are creating extra anxiety for themselves during this time, because they feel like they should be pursuing something creative, or they feel like they should be doing more, and they're not. And I think there's that, too. I think it's not like... Being creative can put some pressure on you.

CJ Maurer: (29:13)
That's true. [crosstalk 00:29:14]

Joe Peluso: (29:15)
It's whatever... I think, to amend what you're saying in terms of being creative, I think, hopefully this time is inspiring people to... If I can be granola about it, but reconnect with themselves and find out what it is, whether it's something creative or whatever, just whatever it is that they love to do, or that makes them feel better, and pursue that fully.

CJ Maurer: (29:46)
Oh, that's a perfect amendment and clarification. Because I certainly wasn't meaning to suggest that everyone feels some sort of obligation to create something, whether it be for themselves or their family or for public consumption. I guess I was kind of speaking more squarely to those people perhaps like you and me, who really love creating stuff, and if given the opportunity would always try to find ways to create more stuff.

CJ Maurer: (30:15)
Yeah. What is this all about? It's the recognition in myself that creation gives me satisfaction. So to actually get it to the lowest common denominator, I think your point is fair. Like what is going to make you most happy, use this time to evaluate that, and do the things that are going to accomplish that for you. I think in my case and in your case, and probably in the case of a lot of people, it's making stuff. But it certainly doesn't need to be the case for everyone.

CJ Maurer: (30:52)
Joe, I got to run, but I really appreciate you making some time for me in this quasi, finger quotes, 'podcast.' I'm certainly having fun, and I hope you did too.

Joe Peluso: (31:10)
Yeah, dude, this is awesome. I had a great time as well. I mean, I always over your time talking to you. That was cool.

CJ Maurer: (31:16)
I'm going to edit out the blushing of the cheeks.

Joe Peluso: (31:20)
I'm blushing, or you're blushing?

CJ Maurer: (31:21)
No, me. You just said [crosstalk 00:31:23]

Joe Peluso: (31:26)
Yeah, no, that was great, man. I really appreciate you thinking to me and having me on.

CJ Maurer: (31:31)
Cool. Enjoy the rest of your bourbon. Enjoy your beautifully painted apartment, and I'll catch up with you soon.

Joe Peluso: (31:39)
All right, buddy. Take care.

CJ Maurer: (31:40)
All right, bye.

Connect with Joe

To learn more about Joe or get in touch with him, check out his LinkedIn profile here.