Latin Grammys 2018

Digital Farm Animals Has Amassed a Stable of Hits Behind (and in Front of) the Scenes

Mathias Normann
Nick Gale of Digital Farm Animals

Nick Gale remembers the first time he thought of his curious pluralized moniker. “When I was in school, I was drunk or something and the room I was staying in overlooked... not so much a farm, but a property with some animals,” he says with a laugh from his studio in Central London. “So I thought, ah! Digital Farm Animals. It kind of stuck with me and some people love it, some people hate it, but it’s memorable so it kind of worked.”  

A lot's working for Gale these days, as the man otherwise known as Digital Farm Animals has successfully built up an eclectic resume of hits for a range of artists, as producer, featured name, or both -- all in relatively short order. Dua Lipa’s star-making sophomore single “Be The One," Galantis’ sweet-as-candy smash “No Money" and Noah Cyrus's Beatles-ish “Stay Together” all bear Gale's handiwork, showcasing his aptitude crafting anything from synth-heavy electronic bangers to understated, instrumentally focused pop hits. It’s an output Gale credits to listening to, well, everything, with a pointed focus on pop music. “A good pop song is just a catchy song that’s something simple.”  

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The fact that Gale catapulted from United Kingdom obscurity onto radio stations around the globe is an even more impressive feat considering that he originally set his sights on being a lawyer. “My friend Nick gave me a CD with (the production software) FruityLoops on it when I was 13 and I’d spend hours and hours and hours studying it,” he remembers. “So I started off spending 10 or 15 years making beats, but my family was always like, ‘Make sure you get a proper job.'”

As a result, the young Gale shipped off to the prestigious Nottingham University, and later BPP, a U.K. law school. Gale hated it, and hopped from one bar to a very different one. “After that I took a year off after that to just work in bars, and just took any job I could to make some money.”

In the midst of his foray dealing with London drunks, Gale caught a lucky break when Tim Blacksmith and Danny D -- powerhouse production duo Stargate’s managers -- caught wind of his beats. Noting his prowess, they snapped Gale up. “While I was working in the bars, they were like, ‘You need to work on as much music as possible, because we’re going to try to get you a publishing deal so you can at least make some money until you transition full time (into music).” Gale then gave himself a time limit: a year without success and he was going to reevaluate things. “If it didn’t happen for me I was going to go and get myself another job or whatever,” he says of his personal ultimatum. “I see it so often when you sign and nothing happens.”

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Then, something did happen. A track Gale helped craft on a whim for for the Belgian artist Netsky dubbed “Rio” became a moderate U.K. hit, gaining traction considering it came out in advance of the 2016 Rio Olympics: a complete, but welcome coincidence. “That song was the first time I heard something of mine on the radio and it made me work more and more,” says Gale, who soon followed that up with a cut for a then-obscure English pop songstress.

“I had been working with a songwriter named Lucy Taylor quite a bit, and she came to me with what was almost a poem that I thought was amazing,” he recalls. That poem would soon become Dua Lipa’s “Be The One,” released as the ascendant pop star's first single in October '15. “We started making a beat in a session and only spent a day on a half on it. During the chorus we realized it was really good.” The track wound up sitting on Gale’s hard drive for six months until Lipa’s SONY label heard it. “I’m not even sure how, but they thought it’d be amazing for Dua," Gale relates. "She came in and we made it right for her, like changing the key. It was a lucky one, because it’s very rare you get to be the first person on a project that gives someone their first major hit.”

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Gale had similar success with “No Money,” co-written and co-produced for Galantis, who at the time were seeking a follow-up to their 2014 hit “Runaway (U & I)”. “In terms of the melody on that one, it’s like a nursery rhyme,” says Gale. “When you’re in a club, people don’t have the mind to figure things out, as opposed to if it’s instant and in your face. So with club music, the simpler, the better.”

The stand-out feature of the the track is a formerly unique vocal technique Gale was an early purveyor of. “It has this pitched-up child vocal, which was just done to death last year, the idea for which came from a previous song I produced," he explains. "I wanted a girl to sing the demo, but I didn’t have one -- so I pitched up the vocal three tones, and realized that for some reason, my voice sounded quite good as a girl. So I started doing it with everything.”

Following two dance breakouts, Gale then changed course. First, he leveled-up on his credits, graduating from a behind-the-scenes mastermind to featured artist. (“Starting out, you get what you’re given but as I’ve built my name up it felt less cheeky asking to be featured,” he offers.) Then, Gale doubled down on getting cuts outside of the dance realm, including the now-rising Louis Tomlinson solo breakout “Back To You” featuring Bebe Rexha. “I’m really proud of that one,” he says of the track. “I was working with (Manchester-based songwriting collective) The Six, and one of them is a phenomenal keyboardist. We were in a '60s-era mindset, jamming, and came up with that melody.” Later, Gale heard Tomlinson was looking for tracks. “We brought it to him and personalized it for what he does.”

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Now, along with upcoming collaborations with the likes of Alan Walker, gnash and Bebe Rexha, Gale has his sights set on crafting chart-toppers where he’s the lead artist at long last, recently releasing tracks with both Hailee Steinfeld (“Digital Love”) and Sigala (“Only One”). In addition, he’s also living up to his wild moniker by touring as the Pigman, complete in a pig mask √† la Deadmau5.

“My brain is just all over the place,” says Gale, ready to hop back into yet another session. “Who says you should be confined to one thing when you enjoy it all?”