Queer Indigenous Musician Black Belt Eagle Scout Talks “The Land, The Water, The Sky”

The year 2018 was a very indie-rock, dream-pop, folksy year for me in regard to music. I had just ended a relationship and was struggling to get sober. Jobless, I turned to music to occupy my mind as I walked the cemetery near the house I was crashing at. It was against this backdrop that I discovered Black Belt Eagle Scout, the musical identity of singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist KP.

The first song I heard was called “Soft Stud” off of her album Mother of My Children. The song starts with punchy, gravely guitar and is softened only by KP’s vocals as she chants “need you, want you” at the song’s chorus. A playful synth also accents the song as it grows. I was immediately taken by KP’s voice and the lyrics, paired with the overall vibe of the song. I knew something special had been presented to me.

Five years on, Black Belt Eagle Scout released their third studio album, The Land, The Water, The Sky, on February 10. I had the pleasure of talking with KP ahead of its release about past projects, the new album, and her life building up to this moment.

On top of being a musician, KP is Indigenous and queer, having grown up in the Swinomish Indian tribal community in Northwest Washington State.

“I remember being really little and running around at pow-wows. And hearing pow-wow music. I think those are the first memories that I have. I know that I experienced music when I was a baby, but I don’t really remember that because my dad used to sing me native songs, drum songs, and things like that,” says KP. “I think the earliest I can remember is like running around at pow-wows and listening to some of the big drum songs. Also, I can remember being little and having people over at my house for drum practice that my family did.”

KP also tells me that growing up, they were a jingle dress dancer, a First Nations and Native American pow-wow regalia and dance. She says she was able to participate in this tradition at pow-wows as a child and also learned to play piano around this time. So, music and it’s power to create connection was a huge part of her early life.

She also tells me that her grandfather, Alex Paul, brought pow-wows to Northwest Washington and was instrumental in developing the practice in that area. One of the pow-wows they had at Swinomish was called the “All My Relations Pow-wow” and it was a big family affair. KP says this pow-wow would always happen around her birthday, which made it even more special as she got to be a jingle dress dancer during these events as well.

“I can’t remember how old I was, maybe six or something. I was at the ceremony where you’re introduced in that role to the public. I had two older jingle dress dancers help me come out onto the floor and we danced once all together, and then they stopped and I had to dance by myself,” she recounts.

For a long time after that, music was still a huge part of KP’s life. She had been playing in a few different bands in different roles for a while when she decided she wanted to make music her main project. That was around 2018 when Mother of My Children came out. KP tells me that she gave herself a deadline having already written a few songs off of the album. So, she booked some recording studio time and with the help of her friend Maya, finished the album which was released by Saddle Creek that year.

If you’ve never listened to Black Belt Eagle Scout before, then 1. you should, and 2. you should be prepared for the sort of rapturous experience of listening to each song. I often turn on that first album when I’m in a mood and need to shake myself out of it a little bit. The songs are, even the slower ones, pulsating and energetic. I think my favorite song of the album is the last song, “Sam, A Dream.” It starts like a tip-toe, and with minimal lyrics, ends at this place of high-flying guitar antics.

The lyrics:

“I’d wait all night, just to see you. I’d wait my whole life, just to meet you. Well you know there’s not much time for you and I, in the sky. ‘Cause you know there’s not much longer for our two hearts in the clouds.”

could be about any variety of pining for someone else, romantic or platonic. They also encompass that connection to the natural world that is so prevalent in Black Belt Eagle Scout songs. From start to finish, Mother of My Children wows you and pulls you in, ending in that sweet, frenetic spot.

KP says that signing with Saddle Creek and releasing her first album catapulted her to another arena that she didn’t know was possible.

“Signing kind of catapulted me into this other zone that I didn’t really think of, like, ‘Oh, I could do this.’ Or, you know, ‘I could do more records,’ you know? They helped me get a booking agent. They helped me get a manager and then I just started thinking, I’m gonna do my music. You know, let’s just do this music. So I went on tour and started doing the whole routine thing that musicians do.”

Signing also meant KP had to put together another album. So, the following year in 2019, she put out At the Party With My Brown Friends, a triumphant album about friendship. This album is also full of gems, with standouts like “My Heart Dreams,” “Scorpio Moon,” and “Half Colored Hair.”

“My Heart Dreams” has that characteristic sound that KP has hand-crafted, with lyrics loudly proclaiming love for a friend. KP sings “wastin’ this life, I only want me and you” at the song’s start, and it really brings you into this tenderness for another person that so many of us feel for our closest friends. Love songs are, of course, our most powerful and most enduring contributions to art, and these love songs for friends hold up to that notion.

“Scorpio Moon” slows things down, but keeps up that tenderness. It reminds me of a song you’d slow dance to at a party, everything kind of moving at half-speed. The best part of the song comes toward the end, with the lyrics “I loved you more than I’d ever know, and through you, I had it,” with KP’s voice lightly trailing off with “ooo, ooo’s”

As a music fan, I find myself so drawn to lyricism and the poetics in song. “Half Colored Hair” really delivers on that for me. So much of what draws me to poetry is taking the ordinary and exalting it. So when KP sings “I never knew I’d like half colored hair so much, but in the light,” it hits all the right chords.

At the Party With My Brown Friends came out in late 2019, and as we all remember, early 2020 brought us a pandemic, which halted KP’s tour plans. During this time, she was living in Portland and decided that she wanted to move back home. She originally had a five-year plan to move back home but ended up moving back in 2022.

“What I ended up doing is, you know, changing my life a little bit not really realizing that and not really focusing on music. I was like I have to make money and try and survive, so I got a day job and moved back home and wasn’t really thinking I was writing a record, but I would play guitar from time to time. And it was the kind of more of a processing kind of playing and so I would play and then I would be like ‘Yeah, I kind of like that,’ and I recorded it on my phone.”

This is how Black Belt Eagle Scout’s third album came together, kind of in a surprising, slow collection of songs. The Land, The Water, The Sky started as an idea for an EP, but then it became clear that a full album was in the works. The full album was recorded in 30 days but over a period of six months, a process that KP says was longer than she usually takes on musical projects.

One of the first singles released off the new album was “Don’t Give Up” which I kind of read as a resilience anthem. In particular, I love the lyric “you wanted a second chance at life, well, you’re alive.” It reads as a gentle yet firm nudge to not give up, to get your ass in gear and do what you want to do.

“I started it in the beginning of 2020 before the pandemic and then I went to a songwriting residency in Coast Salish territory called Hedgebrook. I worked on it there and I couldn’t finish it. Like I just could not finish it. And so I kept kind of like having it, you know, playing it, trying to figure it out. And then I went back to that same songwriting residency in November of 2021. And I finished it there. And we had already been like recording in the studio and I just keep thinking ‘we need to finish this song.’ And so the part about ‘the land the water that sky’ came in during that process. There was just one day where I just was having, I was having a day. And so I was recognizing that the things that are important to me are the land, the water, and the sky. And that’s because it’s something that I experience, but it’s also something that my ancestors have experienced. And this particular land, this particular water, and this particular sky all hold those connections. So thinking of those connections, I wrote the song and the melody just sort of came out of me.”

This particular story reminds me of a great James Baldwin quote:

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.”

Thinking about the history of your ancestors, and even just the people that came before you and experienced the same earth, the same trials and tribulations that you have, or similar. Thinking of those connections gives you the strength and the ability to not give up.

Another great song on the new album is “My Blood Runs Through This Land.” The song closes with the lyrics “waking up is so violent, I want to see the peaceful light,” which, as I told KP, reminds me of the artist’s process. Of how everyday artists wake up and choose to create, choose to see the light even in the darkness. She tells me a little bit about the process of writing this song as well.

“I remember going one day and just laying down on the beach. And it gets cold here, so I was feeling the coldness of the rocks underneath me. It’s a rocky beach, and then like closing my eyes and then hearing the waves kind of trickle in a little bit. The rolling of the small waves,” says KP. “And I just, I felt so, I don’t know what the word is, but just so much like that moment, it was mine. This is my moment. And I was thinking no one can take this away from me right now. This is mine. And so there’s some lyrics about you know, feeling the rocks and having your own moment that no one can take away from you. What I was trying to get at with those lyrics is that there’s something within connection where you can feel so sure. That within this connection that you have, it’s just that very confident and sure feeling.”

KP says that for her, songwriting is a very solitary process. She has to be void of distractions and find a peaceful place where she can be true to herself. Usually, that means in a room with a door closed, but she will sometimes get out into the forest and write songs there too.

Before closing out the interview, we did talk a little about queerness and music, queerness as explored through music, and KP said something I loved so much that I want to share.

“So that is something that I am still trying to figure out. I wrote a song about it. It’s on the album. It’s called Sčičudᶻ (a narrow place). So it means ‘a narrow place.’ And in the song, I’m talking to myself, but I’m also talking to my ancestors. I’m talking about how I am the forest and how I am the trees, and also how I am, you know, feeling happy, and how the forest sees me as being incredibly happy. And there are some lyrics that are like:

‘I see the way you look at me dancing. I see you the way you love me. I’m dancing’ and I’m referring to these trees in this forest watching me. Here is my personal opinion. It might not be the same opinion as some other tribal members where I’m from, but I really do feel that my ancestors live in the land and all of the living beings are our ancestors, and I will become one of those ancestors one day and will forever be one of those ancestors. So what I’m getting at is you know, this is who I am. This is how I feel, and it’s defined by and it is loved by nature. And so I think that’s where I’m at right now with my queerness.”

The Land, The Water, The Sky is now available for purchase and on all streaming platforms.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Dani Janae is a poet and writer based out of Pittsburgh, PA. When she's not writing love poems for unavailable women, she's watching horror movies, hanging with her tarantula, and eating figs. Follow Dani Janae on Twitter and on Instagram.

danijanae has written 157 articles for us.


  1. Thank you for the interview! I’ve been listening to the album all weekend(thanks Spotify for notifying me) & it’s excellent. It got me thinking about my ancestors in relation to where I live.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!