LIZ KONG YAN-CHEE has been in showbiz for more than a decade. Canto-pop muppet and silver screen bimbo? She's been there, done that. Now she has moved on to do what she really wants: become an independent singer who writes her own music. 'I love singing, but it became very unfulfilling. I released four albums before 1996, but I didn't like any of the songs. I was frustrated that I didn't enjoy singing. But now I have found myself,' says the 29-year-old. Today, Kong looks different. Sitting in a Causeway Bay coffee shop, she is wearing minimal make-up, her hair is tied back, and she's dressed casually. Perhaps she wants to send a clear message: let's talk about her music rather than her looks. Her new album Becoming Happy is more like a debut than a fifth release. It is a collection of songs which Kong wrote, partly arranged and produced herself. She started working on the album after winning the 13th CASH Song Writers Quest in 2001 with her own composition Still Nothing Has Changed. 'I didn't have a goal before, but after winning, I realised there was so much I could do,' she says. She spent the whole of last year working on the project which she financed herself. 'I'm no different from other local indie bands like Ketchup or Gayamyan,' says Kong. And she prefers being independent, as it leaves her free from a record company's control. 'There are good points and bads points to being independent. Of course you have much more freedom. If I was signed to a particular company, I would need the management's approval for every single song I wrote before publishing it. But at the same time I don't have many resources for advertising and promotion,' she says. Rather than modelling brand names like many Canto-pop stars do to promote themselves, Kong has opted to do as many live gigs as she can. 'This is the proper way to promote yourself,' she says. 'Like Sarah McLachlan. When she released her first album, nobody knew who she was. But by touring around, she accumulated a huge fan base.' Kong became one of McLachlan's fans after seeing her perform in Los Angeles, where she studied singing at the Music Institute in 1995 and 1996. 'That was a turning point in my life. I listened to a lot of music and mastered my live singing techniques,' she says. 'It was an eye-opening experience. There were so many talented people there who had never released any records. When they heard that I had released four albums and asked me what sort of music I played, I was speechless. I was so ashamed of spitting out the word 'Canto-pop'.' But there is nothing for Kong to be ashamed of now. While sipping her drink, she proudly shows off her new album - albeit a pirated copy. 'Actually I am quite happy. [The fact my music is being pirated]means there is a huge demand for it,' she quips.