BY AJ DONAHUE | FROM THE JUNE 2016 ISSUE OF DRUM!

Nick Ruffini is a doer, and he wants you to be a doer too. He’s spent time as a touring drummer, a restaurateur, a consultant for BOSO Drumsticks, and most recently, a burgeoning media mogul. The Pennsylvania native is the founder of Drummer’s Resource, a weekly podcast that features interviews with notable players and focuses on what Ruffini calls “actionable take-aways.” Notable guests include Mike Johnston, James Gadson, JR Robinson, and dozens of others. We caught up with the man behind the microphone to talk about what inspired the podcast, and what’s next.

The Beginning

I was commuting to New York from Pennsylvania regularly, and there were so many more drummers in that area I wanted to connect with and take lessons from. I wasn’t really looking for conventional lessons. I was more interested in hanging out with drummers at a higher level just to pick their brains and get ideas about concepts. I started scheduling lessons with people, but I would ask if we could just get coffee or sit down and talk rather than go over page 33 of the Ted Reed book or whatever. Then I thought, “If I want to talk with these drummers, I’m sure other people do too.” I started recording the podcast in November of 2013 when I was 31, and now I’ve got more than 155 episodes in two and a half years.

Head First

For years, I would tour and then come home and bartend at the family restaurant to make money. In 2011, things kind of flipped on their head, though. A sudden family split led my brother and me to open a new Italian restaurant with my father. It was totally unexpected. I was releasing a record at the time [Pressin’ On, released under his own name and featuring Johnny DeFrancesco], but I couldn’t tour to support it. At the end of 2012, I realized that I wasn’t happy doing this. The minute I’m unhappy doing something, I’ve got to get out. That pushed me to commit to Drummer’s Resource full-time.

Challenges

I had to find a way to stand out among all the other drumming podcasts. In the end, it was a matter of being consistent. I’ve put out a podcast every single Monday since November 2013. The hardest part is when you’re nine months or a year in and you haven’t made a dime, and you’re up at midnight trying to get the podcast out. But the key is consistency and not worrying about the dollar signs. If you do all that, the money starts to come in.

Goals For Each Interview

Some guests are good storytellers, and I want them to shine in their best light. I’m jockeying the conversation, but if it’s best to just let them go a little bit, I’ll do it. I want some background for context. I want some stories. I want success and failures. But then I want some actionable take-aways. Time is your most valuable asset. If you’re going to spend an hour with me and someone else, that’s a lot of time. I don’t take that lightly. I want to make sure you’re getting something out of that hour.

Surprises?

Calvin Rodgers. He was so humble, professional, and knowledgeable. There were all these life lessons woven into what he was saying. He was out on the road with R. Kelly, realized it wasn’t for him, and decided to go back to playing gospel music. People were criticizing him for that and saying that he couldn’t make any money, but he just went his own way. I already had a lot of respect for him, but he really blew me away in that episode. I had him back later to be a part of Drummer’s Resource Pro. When we were done, I tried to pay him, and he said that he’d rather see the money go to a drummer who needs it.

Wanted Guests

I would love to have Steve Jordan, Steve Ferrone, Questlove, and Steve Gadd. If I could get anybody in the world, it would be either Elon Musk or Mark Cuban.

The Next Step

My partner, David Reid, who is the founder of BOSO Drumsticks and the Senior Director at Audible.com, and I teamed up to start the Media Merge Network in January of this year as an outlet to push out more than just drumming-specific material, and curate content from other creators. The tagline for Media Merge is “creators, artists, and doers.” I brought in the Working Drummer podcast, and I also got Daniel Glass to start a podcast as well. There’s a lot more coming.

Goals For Listeners?

I want listeners to take the things they’re learning on the podcast and put them into action. One of my favorite quotes is: “Too much learning and not enough doing will turn you into an over-motivated underachiever.” If you take all this knowledge and you don’t do anything with it, what’s the point?


june 2016 drum magazine cover

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Drum! magazine.