Karen Mok Man-wai reckons much of her career just fell into place. She moved from singing into acting and then songwriting. After releasing Hui Wei, a cover album featuring traditional Chinese folk tunes and popular oldies last year, the two-time Golden Melody Award winner followed up with Precious, for which she wrote all the music. Zhang Yadong, the so-called godfather of mainland pop who was behind several of Faye Wong's best-selling albums, was producer. Known for her roles in Stephen Chow Sing-chi productions such as God of Cookery and King of Comedy, the 40-year-old has been enjoying her single life after ending a nine-year relationship with actor-director Stephen Fung Tak-lun. What motivated you to take over all the writing on Precious? It wasn't a conscious decision. It just happened. We figured it should be an album with new tracks after having done Hui Wei, which covered Chinese oldies. We looked at demos but nothing I heard really hit me. The first song we wrote was Bao Bei (Precious). It's quite interesting because Zhang Yadong wrote the lyrics - he'd never written lyrics before. I thought maybe I could try to write the melody. Things went on from there It's always fun to do something creative. It's nice when things just evolve. It's a nice surprise. I'm very pleased with the outcome. I like the melody and it's completely different from earlier albums such as Live Is... So, that's kind of nice. If you want to go down the creative path, you want do something different every time. That's how I feel. What instruments do you use to write music? My voice and my brain! It depends. Sometimes a melody just pops [into my mind]. I'll just record it or write it down. If I have nothing to do, I might sit in front of the piano and try to come up with something. Another way is when the producer, in this case Zhang Yadong, might have an idea, he'll put together some chords and I'll write the melody on top of that. That can inspire me to write something. What are your biggest musical influences? I listen to a variety of things. It really depends on my mood. When I was at university, I listened to a lot of old jazz standards and singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. They're definitely a big influence. I used to listen to a lot of classical music and opera. I also used to study the guzheng, something very different. I don't actually listen to a lot of pop music. Maybe that's a good thing. How did you and Zhang Yadong get to know each other? Who came up with the idea for the collaboration? A couple of years ago, when he was doing his own album, Underflow, he wrote and produced the music and got different people to sing. There was one track he wanted me to do. I'd never met him before that. But he's someone I've always wanted to work with. It was an interesting collaboration and we really clicked. We have to do more. When making Hui Wei last year, I thought of no one else but him, especially because it covered old Chinese songs. He was the best guy to do it. When it comes to music, we're on the same channel. That's very important when you are working together on a creative project; you've got to speak the same language. We have the same kind of opinions and thinking musically, so it's very easy to communicate. After Hui Wei, I got him to be the music director for my concerts. When I would try to explain how I would like to treat a song, I didn't even have to finish the sentence, he would already have got the picture. He'd just get on with it and it would be exactly what I had in mind. So the idea for a cover album was yours? Yes. At that time, I was on my own, I wasn't with Universal. I had the chance to do an album and release it on a digital platform with China Mobile. I think that's the new way forward. I thought 'let's do something unusual and interesting'. I figured I'd never done a cover album before. As a singer, at some point, you want to use your own style to sing someone else's songs. But I do it differently, for instance, covering songs that people don't usually cover, such as Chinese folk music. Everything just fell into place. Recently, you told the Chinese press that you were not with anybody. Are you enjoying your single life? Actually, I never told anyone anything. People just reach their own conclusions. Whatever, I don't mind. Yes, you just have to enjoy your life whether you are on your own, with someone or part of a family. On the album, we try to advocate this attitude because I've seen a lot of people who think their mission in life is to find their other half. If they find someone and it doesn't work out, they think they failed. That's not necessarily the case. You don't have to find a husband or boyfriend to be complete. Your life is complete anyway. You can be happy no matter if you're by yourself or with someone. People think that Canto-pop is a shrinking market. Don't you think so? I would say that there isn't much variety in Hong Kong music. One should experiment more with different types of music, not just karaoke style. My last Cantonese album was in 2001. In between, I released some singles and mini-albums. I think a good song is a good song, whatever language you sing it in. Mandarin is popular here too; it doesn't really matter whether I sing in Mandarin or Cantonese. You've been an active advocate for environmental protection and animal rights issues. Are there any new projects coming up? There will be another trip with Unicef to Sichuan. On the new album, we talk about love and how you can apply it to things that happen in your life. Remember to treasure what is important. That could be your friends, lover, animals or the environment. If you take things for granted, you won't treasure what you have. We should help to make the world a better place.