David Numwami was on the verge of becoming a food delivery driver when he received a call to go on tour, performing alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg. Ever since, the rising Belgian artist has found himself on an upward trajectory, working and playing with other influential French music figures, including Sébastien Tellier and Air’s Nicolas Godin.
Numwami’s warm, inviting take on pop music is informed by artists as diverse as Ariana Grande and the legendary Japanese artist Cornelius. After launching a solo career as frontman of the group Le Colisée, he dropped a string of solo singles in 2020. Now, he is celebrating the release of his debut EP, Numwami World. Across seven songs, the Rwanda-born, Brussels-based artist gives listeners an intimate, charming sonic experience in both English and French.
RANGE spoke to Numwami about his new single, “Milky Way,” and how the pandemic helped him overcome his reluctance to release his music—something he considers akin to going to the bathroom.
Congratulations on your new album. How are you feeling about the reception it’s gotten so far?
I’m super happy. It’s always weird for me to see other people reacting to what I do. I’m really not used to it. I feel like I’m the type of person that if I start to look at my Instagram comments, I’d just do it all day. I never check. For example, the reason I’m here [in this building] is because I came to collect some posters that we made. My face is on them. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen my face on a poster. It’s like I’m not able to realize it’s real. It’s the same when I release a song, like “Milky Way.” I see that people are reacting, and from what my manager says, most of them like it. But for me, I don’t understand it. If I release something, it stops having a connection to me. It’s just a song in the world. Once it’s out, it’s not mine anymore.
You’ve previously admitted to being afraid to release any music of your own. What do you think was the turning point for you that led to you deciding to release new music?
It was the pandemic. I felt like (releasing music) was just a way to survive. I was like, “I should start a career, because I can’t really just count on others to call me all the time and play guitar, bass, or keyboards for them.” One day I woke up, and I was in a studio shooting a video. I was like, “Alright, this is it, no turning back.” The need that I’ve always had was to record music. I can’t help myself. For example, “Milky Way” and all the old songs I’m releasing now, I recorded them mostly while I was touring with Charlotte Gainsbourg. Even if I was super tired after the show, I had to go in my room and record music. I feel like it’s a need, like an animal or something… It’s like going to the toilet. To me, there’s a lot in common between going to the toilet and making a song. You gotta let that out!
“Milky Way” is about your partner of 10 years. It’s not always easy to write an amazing love song that captures that feeling of being in love.
It’s almost a little bit about [that feeling]. On “Milky Way,” what I’m trying to say is, “what were the odds?” It’s a song where I’m thinking about the fact that we met, and that’s crazy! And I don’t know how to express how crazy it is. What you said about it not being easy to write a love song about that feeling is a bit meta, in a way. On “Milky Way,” I’m just struggling with it. How is it possible that we met? In a whole universe, we’re living at the same moment, in the same town? How crazy is that? At the end of the song, I’m like, “the answer’s gotta be somewhere in the Milky Way.” Like, how the fuck is it possible that two people fall in love? They have to be in the same place. So many parameters have to be combined for two people to meet and match.
What else can we expect from you for the rest of 2021, assuming we’re about to get fully back to normal?
A lot of hugs, man. As soon as I’m vaccinated. For the rest of it, I’m starting to tour again. I’m going to tour and do quite a lot of dates. What else? I don’t know yet. It’s open. But a lot of hugging and fist-bumping.