‘Camp Scout’ finds musician Mikey Wehling, his dog and his dobro in a meditative place
A year ago, Mikey Wehling had no idea how to even play a dobro. So it’s striking that the resonator guitar takes center stage in the St. Louis native’s latest album, “Camp Scout,” which he released in late September.
He first picked up the instrument after his father gifted him one in early 2021, having purchased it for himself only to find he didn’t take to it. For his son, the dobro opened up new possibilities with its unusual tuning and banjo-like, metallic sound.
“Limiting my options [creates] more creativity. … Sometimes with the guitar it feels like I’m looking at thousands of colors after playing it and studying it and teaching it,” Wehling told St. Louis on the Air. “So with the dobro, it was like, ‘Oh, I have five primary colors to work with. What can I do with this?’”
He started learning the instrument deep into the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time when he felt he was at his “wit’s end” in late winter. Wehling and his 7-year-old dog, Scout, began traveling out into the woods of eastern Missouri — and bringing the dobro with them.
“Often we would be out in Beaufort where my family has a farm — it was originally my great-grandfather’s, and it’s become quite a lovely respite away from the city,” Wehling said.
His idea in venturing out there was to “feel the vibe of the moment” and put the dobro techniques he was exploring into practice, creating new compositions.
“And then capture that composition in the moment, by using just an iPhone or an iPad, because it was just me and Scout there together,” Wehling explained. “And she’s had so many years of being photographed — she’s become really a wonderful participant in these projects.”
Before long, he had compiled a series of videos showcasing the brand-new music — and the surrounding pastoral landscapes and soundscapes, along with Scout’s explorations of them. And now, he has his seventh solo album. “Camp Scout” includes eight instrumental tracks comprising what he describes as a compilation of “meditative bucolic American music,” all recorded at Midtown Sound House in St. Louis.
Wehling, who is a music teacher as well as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, said he hopes the album leaves space for listeners “to take [it] on their own journeys.”
As he explained on Tuesday’s show in conversation with host Sarah Fenske, he considers it a timely listen for early fall, even having written the songs in early spring.
“I feel like there’s a level of hope in all of it. ... It feels very transitional, [and] the record feels as good as it did in the spring,” Wehling said.
So does camping with his dog, Scout, who was waiting at home (and listening to the radio) while Wehling was on air.
“We’re actually leaving to go camping as soon as this interview is over,” the musician said. “She knows something is happening — the tent has been out, the things are happening. So all morning she’s been on me more so than usual, like glue. So I’m sure as she’s snoozing on the couch currently, she’s ready.”
Wehling added that they might just shoot another video of dobro playing and doggo exploration while they’re at it.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.