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Generations of Music: Jenn Wertz passes the harmony down to her son Gibson

This article is the first in a series profiling Pittsburgh musicians and their musical children.

It’s New Year’s Eve, entering into the year 2005 and Rusted Root is playing at Station Square. Amidst their jams and New Year’s energy, it is easy to notice a missing figure from the band’s line-up. Jenn Wertz, one of the group’s vocalists, just so happens to be in labor across the river. With band members calling her from the stage asking about the baby, and plans to continue nursing while on tour for the next couple of months, it is easy to say that Gibson Wertz-Musisko, born at 9:00 a.m., Jan. 1, 2005, was meant to be on the stage.

Growing up in the Wertz home, melody and songwriting were continuous household decorations and necessities. “Each of the family pets had their own theme songs,” says Gibson. Mother Jenn chimes in, “With harmonies too!” Alongside these childhood songs, Gibson was always dragged to rehearsals and studio sessions. In the moments he thought, “It’s equivalent to my [mom] going down to the office. It was just a job that was around at the time.” Though it was just a job, Gibson was routinely a part of the creative process. Jenn recalls enlisting him to help film footage for music videos from her "Take ‘Em as They Come" album, making nine-year-old Gibson lay on the hood of the car as it drove (at a very slow speed!) to get moving angles. Around the same time, Gibson sang high harmonies on backing vocals for differing tracks as his child vocal range would allow.

Gibson was continuously surrounded by music – developing what his Mom calls amazing pitch – but Jenn never wanted to force anything on him. She states, “You have to give your kid space in their schedule to actually let them figure out what they like.” So, quickly Gibson realized that instead of playing soccer, he wanted to go to band practices and gain some proficiency at playing guitar.

His big moment with music happened later– during the COVID-19 pandemic. After quickly losing interest in video games at the start of the lockdown, Gibson set out to figure out how to use the family audio interface, a device that allows audio signals to be recorded and then edited on a computer. With the help of directions that Jenn wrote on notecards about how to use the interface, Gibson passed the time during lockdown writing and recording, all from a home studio set-up. Three years later, after obsessing over EQ ratios and compression types, Gibson had over 250 written and recorded songs on his hard drive, waiting for the right time for them to become something.

As it turns out, the right time has arrived.

On June 1, Gibson released "Atomizer1," a fully-developed five-song EP available across all popular streaming platforms. Within the EP’s first track “Flying Cars,” he clearly emphasizes 2010’s indie feels of Kurt Vile and the War on Drugs, while introducing a voice that reminds listeners of the distinct vocal inflections of Thom Yorke. Gibson seamlessly melds the feel of at-home acoustic recordings into seemingly huge productions– stacking vocals to huge harmonies with echo and reverb, using classic-sounding synths, and emphasizing huge guitar amp feedback on certain tracks.

The EP is part of a bigger work (an 18-song album), just broken up into sections. “People can listen to 15 minutes of music,” Gibson states, “No one can sit down for an entire album today.” Through splitting up the work into sections, he hopes to spread out attention put towards the works over a longer span of time. In the next upcoming months, he will be releasing the different sections of "Atomizer 1," but these release dates have not been determined yet.

Throughout their journey, both Jenn and Gibson agree that the best way for a young person to find a passion is “for them to want to do it themself.” Being surrounded by support, love, and necessary growing space, this passion for creativity is ultimately instinctive for Gibson.

You can learn more about Jenn Wertz here.

You can learn more about Gibson Wertz-Musisko here.

Read more stories written by WYEP Music Journalists here.

Support for WYEP’s music journalism is provided by the Hillman Foundation.

Betsy Schmeler is a Pittsburgh native currently based in Los Angeles pursuing a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California. You can catch Betsy running the door at any DIY show in the USC area, talking about jam bands to hyper-pop on KXSC Radio, or putting together outrageous bills to play in her shared college house’s backyard. Though located in Los Angeles, Betsy hopes to bring the D-I-Yinzer spirit to every place she finds herself.