Five questions with: Katherine Paul a.k.a. Black Belt Eagle Scout, bringing ‘The Land, The Water, The Sky’ to Mission Creek

Mission Creek Festival: Black Belt Eagle Scout

Friday, April 6, 7:15 p.m., Hancher Auditorium, included with pass

Katherine Paul performs as Black Belt Eagle Scout. – Photo courtesy of Mission Creek Festival

Black Belt Eagle Scout was scheduled to play the Mission Creek Festival that never happened.
It’s been three years since that 2020 appointment—at the time postponed and then, ultimately, canceled—but Katherine Paul, who also goes by KP and performs under the title Black Belt Eagle Scout, is at last making their way to Iowa City.

Three years ago, Paul’s album, At the Party With My Brown Friends, was released through Omaha’s Saddle Creek label. Since then, Paul moved back to the Puget Sound region of Northwest Washington to the Swinomish tribe reservation where she grew up. Paul was inspired by her time at home to create their latest album The Land, The Water, The Sky, released in February also through Saddle Creek.

Black Belt Eagle Scout plays at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, April 6 at Hancher Auditorium on the first day of Mission Creek. In advance of their stop in Iowa City, Paul answered five questions from Little Village via email.

You were scheduled to play Mission Creek Festival in 2020 before COVID-19 hit the U.S.A. How different is this year’s performance from the one planned for 2020?

This year’s performance we are playing a whole new set with an entirely different energy and vibe. We are bringing The Land, The Water, The Sky to life and are so excited to play the festival, and especially right before Cat Power!

You’ve released an album since that previous appointment. From what I can tell, this latest release leans slightly more into emphasizing your vocals and creating a more ethereal sound than your previous album. Were these qualities you actively sought out while beginning work on this album, or did those tones take shape in the assemblage?

Thanks for those kind words. With the help of my friend Takiaya Reed of Divide and Dissolve, we were able to create such an atmosphere of sound that I felt supported in my creativity to just dive into the recording process. A lot of the singing and sound really came together in the studio. The foundation of the songwriting was already there before coming in to record but working with Takiaya was really wonderful and natural that the shapes and tones and qualities you noticed had room to blossom.

I believe you also moved home to the Swinomish Tribal Community you grew up on and that helped inspire this album. Is there a particular feeling or characteristic of home that you believe most influenced this album?

Being home in its entirety influenced the album from being with my family to being on the water, to being surrounded by cedar trees to strengthening relationships with my community again. It’s all interconnected and guided me in the process of songwriting and recording.

“My Blood Runs Through This Land” is the album single and received a music video. What about this song made you excited to put it to film?

I had a vision of being a vampire and running around on my homelands. The very first part of the song has a guitar slide into the main chords and I wanted the edginess of the song to have visuals that represent it in the same way. I think my friend Evan Atwood did an incredible job bringing my vampiric island life to the screen.

Many of the songs seem to allude to places that are specific to you. Were you being inspired to translate place to song or did you write a song and later discover that it fit a place?

I think the former, being inspired by my surroundings and having a connection to specific places really made the songwriting come through for me.