The art of authentic conversation, resilience and opening up a new world of connection via podcasting.

By Tricia Scott

Musician, podcaster and businessman, Mike Zabrin is a whole world of audience connection and collaboration.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Mike Zabrin found himself, like many musicians, wondering how to navigate this unknown period of forced separation and loss of the work he loved so much. Who would he be in the world without his beloved bass, his band and an audience to play to? 



A musician of 14 years, Mike started in the world of bass playing by trying out for his school Jazz band, which led to a love affair that would last for the next fifteen years. Living in downtown Chicago and graduating from Columbia College, Mike developed a love for blues and played in bands around the area until they began getting requests to play at weddings. A brand new adventure began with awards and a growing list of bookings until one day; he was fired. 

Just like that. 

Mike knew he had a decision to make; he could either shrink back to local bands and clubs or use his experience as the fire to start again, bigger and stronger than before. He knew that his reputation in the wedding arena was exceptional, people loved his music, and most of all, he had the drive to succeed. So he decided to start an all-new wedding band and take over the Chicago wedding scene. The fire was LIT, and Funktastic productions LLC was born.

Today Funktastic productions are regarded as the midwest's premier events band with awards such as WeddingWire's Couples Choice Awards & The Knot Hall of Fame under their belt; I guess you could say that Mike's old boss did him a favour! When Mike talks about this period of his life, he speaks of his biggest lessons: he realised his inner determination to succeed and never to treat another how he was treated. Something he carries with him to this day. 


Things were going great for Funktastic Productions LLC; they were loved, respected, requested and booked out months in advance, that is until the day the world shut down. Everything was cancelled; all bookings, events, parties, you name it, it was off. Mike knew he had reached another pivoting point in his career, and no stranger to resilience, he got to work on looking for another way to fill his time if he couldn't play. 

Mike started with what he knew for sure. He couldn't sit in his emails all day; that would drive him crazy. But, on the other hand, Mike also knew that he needed connection and stimulation; who knew how long this pandemic would last? So he started looking at his interests. What did he love that he didn't have time for before when he was busy all the time? 

Over the years, being at the helm of the midwest's premier events band, he had to learn about running a business. It wasn't enough to love the music; he had people to take care of and events to manage all across Chicago and beyond, but what if this period could give him the edge? What if being away from the live band life for some time could give him the tools and knowledge to take the business end of Funktastic Productions LLC to another level? He decided to look for a way to combine learning new business skills with the connection and stimulation he was missing. He came up with the perfect solution; he started a podcast interviewing creatives and people in the business world about their experiences! 



Funktastic chats was the way for Mike to meet his own needs during the pandemic and bring something new to the world. He would interview inspirational people of the business and music world and get their experiences, tips, pitfalls, and advice to others to further their experiences and learn. 

Of course, at this time, Mike had zero ideas of how to start a podcast! But being the resilient and determined guy he is, he went ahead and threw himself into the research. He watched and listened to everything he could about starting an engaging podcast; he also learned what he didn't want to do, which, of course, led him to create exactly what he did want - to become the audio magazine of his industry. 

It wasn't long before Mike's Funktastic Chats were hitting the airwaves across the world. With a ton of research, a few carefully selected guests, and his easy-going, well-researched questions, Mike instantly hit it off with his listeners and guests alike. His list of subscribers grew because he was delivering exactly what his listeners wanted and needed, and with an ever-expanding network, the guests and listeners just kept coming.

What's different about Mike's podcast? He is ALL about the conversation. Status isn't crucial in the Funktastic world of podcasting. It's all about the story. His guests range from other creative musicians to top-level CEOs, and the thing they all have in common is that Mike has done a ton of research to draw out the very best questions and get the most from every single guest he interviews. Each personality is highlighted with everything the listener needs to leave inspired, energised and ready to implement into their own life and business. Indeed a winning formula. 



So what's next for Funktastic Productions LLC? As the world begins to return to normalcy and events slowly resume, Mike and his funktastic team will be back in full swing (literally), wowing audiences once again across Chicago. But, as importantly, Mike's Funktastic chats will live on. His experience of connecting with inspirational people has given him a global audience who aren't ready to hang up their headphones anytime soon. As a result, thousands of listeners eagerly await the next episode filled with takeaways, inspiration and humour, taking Mike on their resumed work journeys and anywhere WI-Fi will allow. For the man himself, he assures me that the lessons learned during the last year have been some of the most poignant of his journey so far, and he fully intends to keep them coming, maybe with a bit of back-office help and a whole lot of funk. I for one am excited to see where this extended venture will go, what I know for sure is that I’ll be tuning in, notebook in  hand ready to download all of the good stuff this amazing podcast has to offer from this ultra-talented and one-of-a-kind media entrepreneur. 


If you would like to learn more about Funktastic Productions LLC, you can visit them here or catch up on Facebook, and if you want to listen in to some of Mike's incredible Funktastic Chats, you can do so here.