From Labuan, to Kuala Lumpur, to Taipei, and now, Hong Kong, Karen Kong’s showbiz career has been one change in location after another.

The 31-year-old Labuan native made her showbiz debut in 2007 with a Malay album called Mulakan, featuring the hit song Cinta Hello Kitty, and moved to Taiwan to further her career in 2009.

In 2010, she went to Hong Kong to become the first Malaysian to co-host Jade Solid Gold (JSG), one of the most popular music-chart shows there.

Kong has been based in the former British colony ever since, and has been busy immersing herself in the entertainment industry over there through performing in musical stage shows, releasing singles, and writing songs.

Kong was recently back in Malaysia to recruit musicians for her upcoming new Mandarin EP album, her first since 2009, and took time to speak with Star2 about her time in Hong Kong and her future plans.

1. What have you been busy with lately?

I’ve been writing songs since I moved to Hong Kong, and I’ve been preparing a new Mandarin EP, and with songs that I wrote.

I’m really excited about this album because it is a very personal album, the songs tell stories about my life in Hong Kong, what I’ve learnt, the challenges I’ve faced, and the amusing things that have happened.

2. You have been based in Hong Kong since 2010. Why did you move there from Taiwan?

I wanted a new challenge. Up till then, I felt I was being a bit too protected, and was too content.

I needed to learn how to be independent and grow up, and do things on my own. I went to Hong Kong to learn how things are done over there, and to find my own identity.

3. What is the major difference between being in Taiwan and in Hong Kong?

I was in Taiwan for a year before going to Hong Kong. Taiwan was a bit more laid-back.

In Hong Kong, life is more fast-paced, they talk faster, and they access the latest news and information very quickly.

It’s a total contrast to my personality – I’m laid-back and relaxed, and had to change my lifestyle when I went over there.

Photo: KEVIN TAN/The Star

‘I nearly broke down during the recording, because I was so frustrated with the language!’

4. What was the biggest challenge you faced in Hong Kong?

The biggest challenge was the language. I was never good at speaking Cantonese even when I moved to KL, and when I went to Hong Kong, everyone speaks Cantonese there!

I recorded some Cantonese songs, and the process was a struggle for me. I nearly broke down during the recording, because I was so frustrated with the language!

5. You came back in Malaysia to recruit musicians to help you with the EP. Why specifically Malaysian musicians?

Malaysian musicians are actually really, really good. Some of them have even worked with superstars like Jacky Cheung.

A Hong Kong producer I am working with also mentioned to me that Malaysian musicians are highly sought after by Asian superstars.

As a Malaysian artiste, I want to do my part to support local musicians as well. I always have good chemistry when I work with Malaysian musicians, and I want my EP to have a Malaysian feel to it.