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Your backstage pass to Northeast Ohio's independent music scene.

From viral hit to major-label deal, Cleveland’s Jack Harris signs with Columbia Records

Jack Harris sits for a portrait
Ryan Carcia
Jack Harris, 23, lives in Cleveland and has been making music and videos for years. His social media content earned him a large following and new opportunities in his career as an entertainer.

Cleveland pop-rock artist Jack Harris grew up surrounded by music, often sharing rooms with legendary rock ‘n’ roll greats. His dad, Greg Harris, is the CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But while 20th-century rockers appearing in the Rock Hall would play every venue or submit their records to radio stations hoping to be scouted by a major label, the industry has shifted over the last couple of decades

Harris, age 23, has cracked the code.

“We just shot a little 30-second clip [that] just went viral on TikTok and Instagram and got picked up by a bunch of the A&R people at major labels who are scouring the internet for this kind of stuff,” Harris said.

Online virality, social media followers and streaming numbers help independent artists get discovered and sometimes signed to a record label.

In February, Harris’ unreleased song, “Careful What You Wish For,” made him an overnight sensation.

Harris' video clip gained millions of views overnight. In a matter of weeks, Harris signed a deal with New York-based Columbia Records, home to some of the world’s biggest music acts, including Beyonce, AC/DC and Patti Smith.

“I always had a camera, always was editing little videos, doing Claymation, making these little action movies. Now it's paying off,” Harris said.

Years in the making

The record deal comes six years after Harris began writing, performing, and posting his original songs online and one year after the indie artist performed at the 2023 Glastonbury Festival with headliners Elton John, Arctic Monkeys, and Guns N’ Roses.

Jack Harris stands in front of a bright light
Ryan Carcia
Cleveland musician Jack Harris traveled to Joshua Tree National Park to film the video for his song "Careful What You Wish For," which gained millions of views overnight. The song was his first to be released with Columbia Records.

He participated in a songwriting retreat in the UK leading up to the festival and learned the ins and outs of the marketing system for musicians.

“For the past two or three years, I've been consistently producing content around my music,” Harris said.

While his dad has been supportive of his music career, Harris said there haven’t been any shortcuts.

“This moment is something I've been working toward for a long time, so to some, it may seem like it happened fast, but it doesn't happen fast,” he said. “You have to be obsessed with it.”

Harris said many artists hope their music will gain attention if it’s good enough, but he emphasizes that consistently creating content and trying new things will help gain exposure.

“Everyone can post their music online, and everyone can reach the entire world,” he said. “You have to be willing to kind of play a little bit of that game and not being afraid to make content.”

His philosophy was to have as many conversations as possible with individuals in the music industry and discover what opportunities could arise from collaborating with certain people.

“Then it was really just feeling out, you know, who had the best plan and who I felt I wanted to work with,” Harris said.

Now, Harris has over 150,000 followers on Instagram and more than 220,000 followers on TikTok with 6.6 million likes.

He posts frequently, even traveling across the country to create content.

“Me and my friend Josh LaGuardia, we took a road trip out to LA, and the whole plan was to make content, to meet people,” Harris said.

Harris shot the video for his hit song, “Careful What You Wish For,” during this trip near Joshua Tree National Park, which now has almost six million streams on Spotify.

The viral song is a catchy earworm with a galloping beat and hushed vocals that call to mind artists like Gotye and Billie Eilish.

The song’s lyrics take on a darker, more serious tone, exploring Harris’ personal struggle with mental health treatment.

“It was sort of me expressing the darker experience that I had with trying to figure out the proper way to medicate anxiety and depression,” Harris said.

He recorded the song with Cleveland-based producer Nate Saggio, who Harris said helped capture the anger and depth he wanted to express.

“I wanted every word in that chorus to fit perfectly, because it's sort of this rhythmic, heart-pounding, catchy thing,” he said. “But I wanted it to specifically say exactly what I was feeling.”

Harris said he’s received social media comments from listeners who relate to the song’s themes and share similar experiences navigating the medical system.

He said songwriting has always been a place for him to be as honest as he can be.

“A lot of times people can get too metaphoric, I think. But at the end of the day, we're dealing with very real things that don't always need to be put as a metaphor. And I think my goal with this song was to get straight to the point,” Harris said.

What the Future Holds

Harris said his music doesn’t fit into a particular genre but shares a common simplicity with chord loops and explores random, sometimes playful ideas.

His song “Up and Away,” which he recorded with Cleveland’s Jim Stewart, includes whistling sounds Harris came up with by trying different things in his microphone.

He said his interest in music started by listening to songwriters who told a story, like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

“I also started writing stories, started writing short stories, poetry, and it was kind of an obsession—the ability to use words to paint very specific scenes,” Harris said. “And then that kind of translated into songwriting as I started learning music production and guitar playing and stuff.”

When he was young, he spent a lot of time alone making videos and music. He said his parents didn’t discourage his creativity, and his dad pushed him to perform on stage.

Now that Harris has signed with Columbia Records, he plans to continue building his audience both online and through touring.

He said he’s interested in acting and will appear in the upcoming Eddie Cochran biopic, “Don’t Forget Me.”

“I'm honored to be a part of it,” Harris said. “I filmed over in the UK for that, and it was a blast to embody that role and to study for it and learn his music."

As far as being able to pursue all of his dreams in Cleveland, Harris said he’ll wait and see where his career takes him.

“I'm glad that other people are taking interest because whether people are listening or not, I'm stuck doing this. It's awesome,” he said.

Expertise: Audio storytelling, journalism and production
Brittany Nader is the producer of "Shuffle" on Ideastream Public Media. She joins "All Things Considered" host Amanda Rabinowitz on Thursdays to chat about Northeast Ohio’s vibrant music scene.