Jenessa Smith’s 4-year-old son just might be a prodigy in the making. Smith, a Provo-based musician who performs as Goldmyth, has two children who are among the first listeners of her early demos as the family runs daily errands in the car. Perhaps by pure osmosis, her oldest child is already showing an interest in music—the two practice pitch matching as he brushes his teeth and he asks his mom precocious questions about instrumentation and production while listening to songs. “He’s either going to have nothing to do with music or be an amazing producer that knows everything by the time he’s 7 years old,” Smith says.
Smith gravitated towards music as a child, too, and she grew up playing classical and Celtic music on the piano and harp. A mixture of personal inspiration and small-town boredom—Smith grew up in Pocatello, Idaho—led her to songwriting. Her early inspirations are still apparent in her music—the pop-leaning emo of Death Cab For Cutie and Dashboard Confessional, the soft-spoken folk of Joni Mitchell and Iron & Wine and the baroque experimentations of Sufjan Stevens, who she still cites as a musical lodestar. She quickly began recording music on her own, even handing out a self-produced EP to high school classmates. (She jokes that this early music “must never see the light of day.” Fair enough.) After moving to Provo as an adult, Smith found inspiration in the city’s honest-to-gosh music scene, which simply didn’t exist in Pocatello. She decided to incorporate harp into her bedroom pop songwriting, taking cues from Joanna Newsom, who took her own classical harp training to create psychedelic indie music.
Smith describes both her own music and the artists she gravitates toward as a “mix of sweet and salty.” She juxtaposes lyrics about heartbreak and disappointment with casually catchy melodies. She uses the harp as an ethereal accent, like on the percussive synth-pop song “Lover’s Letdown,” or as the foundation of lush instrumental soundscapes, as in “Faded Dream.”
Both of those songs are on Goldmyth’s EP Faded Dream, which was released independently in 2017. Since then, she’s shared a few singles, most recently a cover of Gorillaz’ “On Melancholy Hill,” and is working on new music. This relatively modest output, though, belies Goldmyth’s success, especially in the past year. “Lover’s Letdown” was featured in an episode of The Sex Lives of College Girls on HBO Max, and she recently performed during a taping of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. (Yes, she could overhear catfighting as her band played quietly.) She is a fixture on local lineups—some 2022 gigs include a spot at Kilby Block Party and opening for the electropop group MUNA. She even traveled to Amsterdam for her first international performance at the International Harp Festival. Smith’s candid, relatable lyrics and dreamy sound are clearly connecting with a growing audience.
Capitalizing on that momentum, Smith is preparing to release her official debut album. (Her new single “Triptych” will be released June 24.) She is constantly gathering snippets of inspiration—“I have hundreds and hundreds of voice memos in my phone,” she says. If one idea sticks, she starts with a keyboard part or drum loop that “propels the song,” then records vocals and layers harmonies. She squeezes time in to write and record after her kids fall asleep. “I have to stay up super late at night when I get these flashes of inspiration just to capture it all,” she says. “It’s basically until I get tired and have to go to bed.”
Smith worked with co-producers Nate Pyfer and Mason Porter on Faded Dream. Since releasing her EP, she’s started performing with a consistent backing band—Jackson Jenkins, Tyler Harris, Joshua Arena and Isaac Paul Ramirez. (The latter three perform their own music as the band future.exboyfriend.) For Smith, a self-described “control freak,” the recording process is still mostly solitary, but working with her band has opened her up to new possibilities for collaboration. She has spent time in the studio with Jenkins, and after finishing a demo the band adds instrumentation, provides feedback and helps Smith imagine how the music would sound live. “That’s the thing about the Utah music scene,” she says. “There are so many really talented people who are nice and down to jam and collaborate.”
Smith admits that it can be challenging to write songs, especially about romance and heartbreak, now that she’s married with two kids. Smith’s lyrics come from real-life experiences and emotions, and motherhood’s routines and structure are admittedly not the most obviously compelling material for new music. “Uncomfortable feelings are where a lot of good songs come from,” she says. “I have to push myself a lot. I can’t get complacent because those shifting uncomfortable places are usually where I find that I’m inspired and motivated.” Still, Smith’s children inspire her to embrace her art. “It feels like I can’t not do it,” she says, describing her desire to make music as a “creative driving force that I have to feed.”
“I love that they can see me doing something that I’m really passionate about and being this full person,” she says.