If you’ve listened to pop radio recently, you’ve probably heard one of Oceanside native Scott Harris’s hit songs. Among his writing credits, one melody has won a Grammy, while another is a contender for Song of the Year at this year’s show.
Harris co-wrote the Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” which features Daya, and won Best Dance Recording at the Grammys in 2016. This year, the 2002 Oceanside High School graduate will return to the Grammys in a bigger category. His latest hit, “In My Blood,” sung by Shawn Mendes, is nominated for Song of the Year at the 61st annual Grammy Awards. It will compete against tunes by Lady Gaga, Drake and Childish Gambino when the show is broadcast live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 10.
“It’s incredible,” said Harris, 34, who now lives in Brooklyn. “It’s definitely crazy because this time, the category is one that a lot of songwriters dream of being nominated for.”
Harris has written music for artists such as X Ambassadors, Jessie J and Bebe Rehxa. He is also known as a songwriter for Mendes, a 20-year-old singer. Harris has worked on Mendes’s songs such as “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back” and “Treat You Better,” which have reached numbers 1 and 3, respectively, on Billboard’s U.S. Mainstream Top 40 charts.
“In My Blood” was written on the first day of songwriting in Malibu, Calif., for Mendes’s 2018 self-titled release, said Harris, who entered the “beautiful studio,” picked up an “interesting instrument” that no one had played before and started messing around with it. Weeks later, they played the same melody on guitar, creating the tune, which was the lead single for Mendes’s third album. The song, which addresses anxiety and mental health, peaked at No. 7 on the Top 40 charts.
“With Shawn’s music, we try to get as personal as possible,” Harris said, noting that his songwriting process often begins like a therapy session.
While Harris didn’t always have a “pop sensibility,” he said he was constantly exposed to music. His late father, Howard “Dorian” Friedman, was a jazz musician, and taught his son to play piano. He encouraged him to follow his dreams even as a child As Scott got older, he learned guitar, wrote punk songs and played them for his parents.
“He was a musician from the time he was little,” said his mother, Nancy Friedman. “I always knew he was incredibly talented.”
As a teenager, Harris started a band called Low Tyde with friends and fellow Oceanside High School graduates Todd Baltch, Alex Center and Josh Seff, all of whom are still close friends. He recalled playing small venues in Wantagh, Baldwin, Oceanside and Rockville Centre and selling their CDs at Oceanside High School.
In college, Harris studied the music business at SUNY Oneonta, and Seff, 34, of Brooklyn, studied marketing at the University of Buffalo. While Seff and the others left their band days behind, Harris stayed involved in music.
“Playing in Low Tyde was just fun for me and the guys, but for Scott it was something different — he was always next-level,” Seff said. “We were [within] driving distance [in college], so he stopped by a few times and played for packed bars.”
Eventually, Harris was touring the country with singer-songwriter-producer Teddy Geiger. After writing a song called “Life of the Party,” he caught the ear of Island Records A&R Manager Ziggy Chareton, who introduced him to Mendes in 2014. Since then, Harris has co-written most of Mendes’s songs.
Despite his accomplishments, Harris remains humble and shares his success, Seff said. He and Harris attended a Chainsmokers concert on New Year’s Eve in 2016, the first time the group performed g “Don’t Let Me Down.”
“Every time he achieves something, it’s a proud moment,” Seff said.
He added that although Harris’s success may appear to be “overnight” from the outside, he has worked hard through the years to be where he is today. “Having seen him go from the ground up and how much work he put into this is incredible,” Seff said.
“He has a very strong work ethic,” Friedman echoed. “Sometimes he writes until 4 in the morning, and if Shawn [Mendes] calls him, he’ll get on a plane in a minute. They’re very good friends.”
“In My Blood” is one of eight songs nominated for Song of the Year. The others are “All the Stars,” by Kendrick Lamar and SZA; “Boo’d Up,” by Ella Mai; “God’s Plan,” by Drake; “The Joke,” by Brandi Carlile; “The Middle,” by Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey; “Shallow,” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper; and “This Is America,” by Childish Gambino.
Harris said he will be excited to hear the results live when he attends the show, but mostly he is enthusiastic about making more music with Mendes. “It’s been really cool to develop such a good relationship with an artist,” he said. “We’re always texting [each other] song ideas, sending voice memos. The ongoing dialogue never really stops.”