Michelle Tigard Kammerer—aka MTK—had her first introduction to country music as a young girl, listening to The Grand Ole Opry on the radio with her grandfather.
“I learned to sing all of the songs, and my grandpa and I would sing along together,” she said. “I remember he asked me once if I wanted to sing at the Grand Ole Opry like the superstars we heard on the radio. I said, ‘No, grandpa, I want to run the Opry.”
MTK, who is now head of country music at Amazon Music, clarified that she didn’t necessarily mean she wanted to work at the Opry—the world-famous country music venue in Nashville, Tennessee—rather, she wanted to be a part of the country music industry.
“This music brought me and my grandpa so much joy, and I was passionate about sharing it with as many people as possible,” she said.
Her love of all things country—and words from an early mentor to “follow the music”—have led MTK through the close-knit country music industry to her current role developing the country genre for Amazon Music. She is now responsible for helping millions of fans connect with the music they love through fun experiences like livestreams, award shows, and merch campaigns.
“I knew what I wanted from a very young age, and I'm so lucky I get to live out that dream here at Amazon Music,” she said.
We met with MTK to learn more about her career and how she got to where she is today. Keep reading to hear about her career highlights, her hilarious moments with country icons, and how she’s innovating at Amazon.
Meeting her heroes
After nearly two decades working at major talent agencies and record labels, we knew MTK would have some stories about meeting country music’s biggest stars. What we didn’t expect was how much we would laugh when she told us the story of how she met one of her heroes.
“Reba McEntire is the biggest of the big for me. She’s from Oklahoma and I’m from Kansas,” MTK explained, “So for me, she’s always represented that you could leave your small town and live out your country dreams. I was so excited when I got the chance to meet her early in my career at Creative Artists Agency (CAA).”
McEntire was signed with CAA at the time, and the team had the chance to meet her after a listening session.
“This was my moment—this was the queen of country music and I was finally going to meet her,” she said. “Reba was going down the line introducing herself to everyone, and I was getting more and more nervous and excited as she got closer to me. I was practicing what I was going to say in my head. Finally, she gets to me and says, ‘Hi, I'm Reba. Nice to meet you.' And I go, 'Hi, I'm Stephanie. Wait, that's not my name.' And I looked down at the ground, walked out of the room, got in the elevator, got in my car, and drove away, crying on the way home.”
Eight years passed before MTK found the right opportunity to redeem herself. She’d been in the same room as McEntire at many events since the initial meeting, but it took a nudge from her boss at Big Machine Records to find the nerve to reintroduce herself.
“I was working in the press room at the Country Music Awards when my boss walked in with a look on his face that told me he was up to something,” she said. “There had been rumors that Reba was going to be there, and all of the sudden I get a tap on the shoulder and I turn around and Reba goes, ‘Hi, I'm Reba. I hear you have a story to tell me.'”
Fortunately, McEntire found the situation as hilarious as we did.
“She was rolling laughing and said, ‘Well, let's make this official. Shall we? Hi, I'm Reba. Nice to meet you.' And I said, 'Hi, I'm Michelle,’” MTK laughed. “She's magical and wonderful and smells like rainbows and sunshine. That's what I will say about Reba McEntire.”
Playing a part in country music history
In the years since, MTK has become accustomed to working alongside major artists, and her excitement for helping fans discover new artists has only grown stronger. Over the course of her career, she’s played a part in launching hit songs and developing big acts, like Lady A and Florida Georgia Line.
“What's so great about the music community is many of us are close friends who work together and have actual relationships,” she said. “I was part of discovering and developing Lady A early on in my career at CAA, and we've stayed close as they took off—they were even at my wedding.”
“I also had the honor of surprising Florida Georgia Line with a No. 1 plaque onstage at their sold-out concert at Fenway Park. The song was ‘God, Your Momma, and Me’ with the Backstreet Boys and they were on tour together, so I had the opportunity to be a part of the presentation. It's a gift to share such special moments with artists.”
Helping artists achieve their dreams is rewarding on its own, and MTK said it really comes full circle when fans connect with the music she’s worked on.
“Sometimes I’m in the supermarket and I hear someone singing along to a song that I worked on, and I feel so proud,” she said. “I go back to that little girl who fell in love with country music and feel so grateful to play even a small role in helping fans connect with the stories country music has to tell.”
Innovating at Amazon Music
Since joining Amazon in 2021, MTK has led a talented team on a mission to connect more fans with the music and artists they love—and they’re off to an incredible start. Together with the head of country programming Emily Cohen Belote, whom MTK calls “Golden Ears,” the Country Heat brand on Amazon Music has reached more than 5 billion streams with its “Country Heat” playlist and podcast over the last year alone. The team has also boosted the service's offerings to customers by embracing up-and-coming country stars like Bailey Zimmerman and BRELAND, and artists on the cusp of superstardom like Lainey Wilson.
“Being the head of country at Amazon Music is so special, because we get to engage artists and share their music on a global scale,” MTK said. “We get to tell artists’ stories and connect with fans in new ways using Amazon’s broad range of services.”
In her first year with Amazon Music, MTK had the opportunity to work with teams across the company to help produce the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards show.
“Prime Video stepped up to broadcast the ACM Awards this year, and the country music team supported as they worked to put it all together in record time,” she said. “The timing was tight, and it was incredible to see how many people across Amazon—from Fashion to Prime Video, Music, and Twitch—came together so quickly to move a mountain. The fact that the entire effort was driven by a passion for music made it even more amazing. We also got to work with the incredible Dolly Parton, which was a huge plus.”
This was the first fully streamed music awards show, and the streaming format made it easier than ever for customers to watch the show from their devices. Her team has also developed livestreams through Prime Video, Twitch, and the Amazon Music app to give fans access to historically exclusive events, like album launch parties and intimate shows.
“It’s exciting to be able to help artists reach a significantly bigger audience when they’re launching new music, while also helping millions of fans access new experiences through streaming,” she said.
It’s a lot of work to grow an entire genre for Amazon Music, but this stage of building something into its full potential is exactly the type of challenge that MTK loves. As she continues to build on her storied career in the country music industry, the sky is the limit for what MTK and her team will deliver for Amazon Music customers next.
“Little Michelle would be so proud if she could see how far we’ve come,” she said. “I used to watch shows like the ACMs on TV and listen to my favorite artists on the radio, and now I work in my dream job making it easier than ever for fans to fall in love with country music.”