WHEN the singer MacKenzie was a child he wasn’t allowed to listen to Prince. Growing up in a religious household in Virginia anything other than church music and Christmas songs was considered to be risque – and a heel-clad man singing about sex while wearing bum-less chaps was sent straight from the fiery pits of hell.

A secret fan since discovering a contraband Purple Rain record stashed away by his mother when he was nine, MacKenzie did “everything he could to be around his music.”

“My family were Southern Baptists and we weren’t allowed to listen to secular music but my mom couldn’t be with us 24/7. I wasn’t allowed to listen to anything in the charts, let alone Prince.”

Now, after MacKenzie’s raw talent impressed members of one of Prince’s original bands, the New Power Generation (NPG), the 31-year-old is fronting a tour, Celebrating Prince, that will close in Glasgow on Thursday, December 12.

His parents’ reaction to him singing the suggestive, sexy songs of Prince? “Um, my mom is happy that I am living my dream. I’ll just leave it at that. She definitely doesn’t like me to sing certain songs. She doesn’t want me to sing Sexy Motherf****r. She says, why do you have to gyrate on stage?”

But maybe his family are missing the point of Prince. There’s no question that Prince Rogers Nelson pushed boundaries, never shying away from subverting stereotypes – gender, sexual and musical. He goaded prim politician’s wives into crusades against sexual lyrics after Tipper Gore was horrified to discover an ode to masturbation, Darling Nikki, in the tracklist of 1984’s Purple Rain album. That outrage led to the liberal use of parental advisory labels.

But there was more to his music than shock value, his output, much of which has never been released, touches on every facet of the human condition – as spoken by the NPG Operator on Prince’s 17th studio album, 1995’s The Gold Experience: “This experience will cover courtship, sex, commitment, fetishes, loneliness, vindication, love and hate.”

Prince was able to do that, says MacKenzie, because he was honest.

He said: “As an artist that’s attractive, because unfortunately, there’s nothing more rare in artistry than authenticity. Especially in today’s musical world artists are packaged to the point where they don’t even recognise themselves.

“I strive to be that authentic in my own music and that honest but it takes a lot of skill, not only to make your truth palatable for everyone, but to tell your story in such a way that it’s understandable. He did that like no one else did. He was truly a master.”

Music to MacKenzie is spiritual, a connection to something bigger than what can be seen, as it was undoubtedly to Prince who constantly questioned religion, existence and purpose through his music.

MacKenzie said: “I always talk about the vibrations. The universe is built on vibration and we’re all vibrations and music is literally the manipulation of vibration. That’s why it can make us happy, it can make us sad. The spiritual science of that alone is something incredible.”

His favourite Prince song is The Cross, from 1987 album Sign ‘O’ the Times, whose lyrics that are steeped in spirituality, evoking the Rapture and alluding to the crucifixion of Jesus, all hinged on a “knowing”, a faith that self-sacrifice might eventually pay off.

MacKenzie said: “It’s the first song I heard that made me feel the same way I felt in church.”

Working with the original band members, keyboardist and Prince’s longtime musical director Morris Hayes, Sonny T, Tony M, Levi Seacer and Damon Dickson has been more than just a musical education.

MacKenzie said: “They have taught me so much. I love talking to them about different approaches melodically. They all grew and learned from Prince but these guys are geniuses in their own right. I mean, sitting and talking with them for an hour is like going to school – the lessons are endless and they’re so gracious.”

The last time Morris Hayes, 56, was in Glasgow it was with Prince and the NPG on the Ultimate Live Experience Tour in 1995. I was there, 14 years old and blown away by my proximity to my hero and one-true love. It was after that in my Standard Grade English exam that I pretended I was a journalist and imagined I had interviewed Prince and his band members.

Hayes laughs when I tell him about my fan-girling: “I love that. That's fantastic. And here we are.”

He remembers watching Prince’s much criticised – Prince was almost too scared to speak – 1980 American Bandstand performance with his mother: “We were watching him on television and my mom goes, ooh, who is this fellow, this is the devil right here.”

Only four years later the pair met in Memphis during a Prince and the Revolution tour, and Hayes ended up working as a runner at Prince’s home and studio Paisley Park near Minneapolis. It would later be where the 57-year-old musical legend would die of an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2016.

“Levi, Prince’s guitar player and producer threw me a bone and let me play for a session on the Times record and Prince heard it and so did his label boss and they were like, man, this is awesome.

“I mean, I’d been working in the studio for a while and Prince had never talked to me and I was in the studio one day and he said, 'nice solo'. And I was looking around and thinking, 'woah, are you talking to me?' And he said, 'yeah, you played the solo right?' 'And I said, yeah'. And he was like, 'so I’m talking to you.' So I was allowed to hang out and I was allowed to play on Diamonds and Pearls, and the rest is history.”

During his tenure as Prince’s musical director and NPG member, Hayes and Prince forged a professional and personal relationships.

Prince was shy and nervous, says Hayes, an image at odds with the brazenness of his lyrics and his blistering live performances.

“He was very shy, I came to learn. He would get very nervous about [being on stage] and it wasn’t so much he was nervous for him, he was nervous for everybody else. He knew what he was going to do, he was worried about we were going to do.

“When it came to his bands, he treated us like family. We were very much aware that he was our boss but he treated us like friends but we knew he was the boss when it came to getting the work done.”

Prince was known to be an obsessively hard worker, not leaving the studio for days on end and demanding 24-hour rehearsals with his bands.

Hayes said: “He was a perfectionist, because they way Prince looked at it with the recorded media, he said, whatever you do, man, always do your best because once you do it, it’s in the ether and anybody can refer back to it and say, 'oh that sucked'. And he was very aware that people remembered bad performances more than they remembered really great ones. He was always very conscious that that was what would happen if we didn’t do the absolute best we could.”

After Prince’s death his friends and former bandmates performed a tribute concert in October 2016 featuring Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Prince’s ex-wife Mayte Garcia.

He said: “It was an incredible amount of work. I went for days without sleeping but it was really phenomenal.”

Prince was so loved, and touched so many people with his music, because of his ability to write. “I asked Prince one time, what do you think you’re best at? And he said, 'at the end of the day, I’m a poet'. And he was right because he thought about lyrics, about how to tell a story.

“I think what made him so special is that people connected with him because when Prince wrote, his heart was on his sleeve, when he hurt, he wrote hurt and people connected with that emotion. I think they can feel when something is from the heart, that reaches the heart.”

And Prince was funny. It can be heard in his album interludes, interviews and TV appearances. Hayes said: “That is what I miss about him the most, the laughter and being silly. I miss hearing him laugh because when you could make him laugh, he loved that.”

His mentor and friend taught Mr Hayes how to be fearless. “He wasn’t scared of nobody or nothing. He stood up to record executives and didn’t take no crap. I respected him a lot because of that.”

New Power Generation, Celebrating Prince, Glasgow O2 Academy, Thursday, December 12.