Black Belt Eagle Scout Comes Home in ‘The Land, The Water, The Sky’

Reflected in their glasses, the proud heads of sturdy trees strain to kiss the misty blue mountain-lined sky. It has been a long journey homeward for Katherine “KP” Paul, better acquainted with the ears as Black Belt Eagle Scout.

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Awash in the scene beckoning from their window, it is this spectacle that coaxed the artist home to begin with, and ultimately fueled the latest Black Belt Eagle Scout album, The Land, The Water, The Sky.

“There’s a thing here in my tribe where we’re always told when we’re younger … ‘Go out, get an education, get some life experience, come back, and share it with your people,’” KP explains to American Songwriter.

When the pandemic hit, the multi-instrumentalist found themself far from home, living in Portland in a “shitty” apartment, and longing for the natural beauty of their upbringing. In making the journey back to the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, back to their ancestral lands, KP has found healing, gratitude, and joy.

“I didn’t really move back home for music,” the artist says. “I moved back home for my well-being and to be around family, which ultimately ended up being music. It was the foundation that I think helped me be able to create music.”

Black Belt Eagle Scout’s third studio album, The Land, The Water, The Sky, is a love letter to coming home, brimming with songs that tell stories of the challenges, but also the happiness that the move brought.

When KP slowly started writing music again after the move, they had little expectation, recording snippets of songs here and there as voice memos on her phone. Bit by bit, the hearts of songs began to beat, and what was meant to be an EP breathed life into a full-length album.

“I had like five songs that I was working on for the EP,” KP says, “and then I had to sort of reach back and go through the last year and a half or so of my phone voice memo recordings.” It was from there that they pieced together the backbone of The Land, The Water, The Sky.

In the studio, KP described the production of the album as free. The arrangements – rich soundscapes swirling with airy vocals – came naturally, and those song fragments were nurtured into weighty tunes of strength, healing, and hope.

“The writing really came to life because of the support and the environment in which it was recorded,” KP explains. An early song on the album, “My Blood Runs Through This Land,” came to be because of such sustenance. The song’s influences hum throughout the track and tell a story not only about them but about those who came before.

“The song, in the studio and during the writing process, it really ended up attaching itself to the land in this area,” KP says, detailing how the song was sparked from an affirming experience at Snee Oosh beach, feeling the rocky shore and the chill of sapphire waters. “I talk about holding onto rocks and hearing the water … specific moments of being in tune with the land and being in tune with my surroundings and having just that moment of gratitude.”

That experience also gave KP a moment of clarity that is present within the song, a moment of “This is where I’m supposed to be.”

“Sitting on that beach, I remember thinking, ‘This is probably one of the same spots that my ancestors sat in and I’m here singing, humming along, being in tune with this place,’” the artist continues. “I think that ‘My Blood Runs Through This Land,’ it’s meant to be this ode to who I am and where I come from. My blood is in these homelands that I live in right now in Swinomish. This is where we’ve always been, where we always will be.”

I feel it in the sound of water / Touching all the rocks / I feel no one can take this moment away cos / My blood runs through this land, KP delicately sings against a haunting atmosphere of sound. Engulfed in wind-like harmonies, a heart-racing guitar line thrusts the song forward like the pounding of feet to earth.

“I wanted that to be the sound that you hear when my ancestors are running through this land,” KP says. “When I think about them and I think about that moment that I had on that beach, that’s how powerful they are.”

The songs on The Land, The Water, The Sky all vibrate with hope, pride, and remembrance, but going home to their community was not without its challenges. “I’ve been gone for a while and I was trying to figure out who I am and it’s frustrating sometimes,” KP says. Whispers of those frustrations can also be heard throughout the album with lyrics like screaming at the distant sea.

KP explains how this album experience granted an openness in their creation process that was never really present before. “I dipped my feet into this vulnerable place,” KP says. Since going home, they have grown and became more fearless in the face of change. “I definitely think I’m a different person than I was in 2019. I feel like I’m stronger.”

KP describes being more open to change, more open to just being, something that has been reflected back at them in The Land, The Water, The Sky.

Black Belt Eagle Scout’s The Land, The Water, The Sky is out now.

Photo by Nate Lemuel / Courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR

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