Tonight, that mood of isolation permeates Prince's luxurious 30,000-square-foot Tuscan-style villa, perched high in a gated Beverly Hills enclave. The royal one, clad in a filmy white sweater over a black shirt and slacks with (shocker!) flip-flops, lives solo in the nine-bedroom home, where a cook is upstairs preparing food for a post-midnight gathering with friends and bandmates.
"I'm single, celibate and sexy," he says with a laugh. "I feel free."
After being introduced to Jehovah's Witnesses by friend and bass player Larry Graham, Prince converted in 2001. The onetime voracious womanizer who crooned "Scandalous," "Do It All Night," "Sexy MF" and "Dirty Mind" has purged his lyrics of naughty lingo and spends more time proselytizing than partying.
He's as likely to show up on a neighbor's doorstep with a Watchtower Bible as he is to frequent a hot club.
"Sometimes fans freak out," he says of his missionary encounters. "It might be a shock to see me, but that's no reason for people to act crazy, and it doesn't give them license to chase me down the street."
He turned 50 on June 7, but "being a Jehovah's Witness, I don't celebrate birthdays or holidays. I don't vote."
Reviewing a video of the sultry "Te Amo Corazon," he points out his limited physical contact with co-star Mía Maestro of "The Motorcycle Diaries." "That's another way faith has changed me," he says.
"I love to bring the Bible to the table. I ask if they believe in God, then: 'What kind of business do you want to conduct: transparent or hide the ball?' I'll do tours and albums if the deal is clean."
"I learned from Jehovah's Witnesses that a fatalistic view is counterproductive," he says. "An agent I was talking to earlier today had this viewpoint that someone has to win and someone has to lose. Nobody who thinks like that gets very far. Look at Frazier and Ali. Both of them got something out of that fight. I understand competition, but not the kind where someone has to die or be disenfranchised."
After visiting his library to read Scripture and weigh in on intelligent design, Prince strolls to his bedroom to share tunes that will be released when he determines a distribution route.
On a love song, his voice takes on yearning as he pines for the feel of a lover's lips and the move of her hips. "That's what happens with years of celibacy," says Prince, survivor of two broken marriages. "It all goes into the music." He pauses. "This time, it has to be the right person."
For now, songs offer sufficient companionship. "Music to me is a life force," he says. "It's not what I do. It's what I am."