Episode 80: AJ Lambert
In this episode, AJ Lambert, the granddaughter of Frank Sinatra and recovering alcohol addicted person, speaks with Karen about her journey.
AJ Lambert Bio
AJ Lambert has a vested interest in reviving the art of song interpretation, the one and only musical trait the singer feels she has in common with her grandfather, Frank Sinatra. In her former musical incarnation, AJ was a bassist in various bands (including Here We Go Magic and a reunion of seminal punk icons The Homosexuals). She turned to singing in her 40s, when she felt she finally had the voice to give the necessary emotion to songs her grandfather made popular with such albums as In the Wee Small Hours and Sinatra sings for Only the Lonely - she spent several years performing the two classics live in their entirety, with only a piano accompaniment.
In 2019, AJ released her first full length solo LP, Careful You, via Alpha Pup. The album includes unique, poignant interpretations of songs by artists including Spoon and TV on the Radio, as well as some of her grandfather’s deep cuts such as “Sleep Warm” and “Ebb Tide”. The album was recorded and produced by AJ with Daniel Schlett (The War on Drugs, Amen Dunes) and Boshra AlSaadi (TEEN, Janka Nabay). The record was a critical success in both the UK and the US. Lambert also directed 2 videos for the album.
Last October, Lambert released Lonely Songs, a collaborative EP featuring Greg Ahee of Protomartyr, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely. She was director for a third time, of the video for “Lush Life.” , which was an outtake from the original Sinatra album that Lambert and Ahee included on the EP. Another collaboration with Ahee is set to be recorded next month, with drummer Mike Wallace of Preoccupations rounding out the band (AJ will be returning to the bass as well as singing).
Whether performing with a pianist, a full band or on record, AJ Lambert’s style and interpretations of both standards and contemporary music alike are truly her own.
Intro Voices 00:04
Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me? This is You Matter, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Campus Safety.
Karen Ortman 00:31
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to You Matter, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your host Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President of Campus Safety Operations at the Department of Campus Safety, and a retired law enforcement professional. Today, I welcome AJ Lambert. AJ is the daughter of Nancy Sinatra, and the granddaughter of Frank Sinatra, one of the most renowned and influential entertainers of all time. AJ is here to talk about her life as a Sinatra, her career as a singer, songwriter and musician, and to share her story of alcohol addiction from which she has been in recovery since 2015. AJ, welcome to You Matter.
AJ Lambert 00:36
Karen Ortman 01:31
Hi. It's so wonderful to meet you.
AJ Lambert 01:35
I know it's so nice to meet you, too. I was so excited that you asked me to do this.
Karen Ortman 01:40
And I'm so excited that you said yes, because I'm not going to lie, I'm a huge Sinatra fan. Not only Frank Sinatra, but I ove your mom to.
AJ Lambert 01:49
Karen Ortman 01:49
Yeah. She's on my playlist. I'll have you know. So let's start. First of all, let me say congratulations on your recovery since 2015. That's awesome.
AJ Lambert 02:06
Coming up on, it'll be six years on July 14.
Karen Ortman 02:09
So tell me about your childhood. Describe your childhood as the daughter of Nancy Sinatra and the grandchild of Frank Sinatra.
AJ Lambert 02:19
Um, I, you know, we had a pretty, you know, for all things considered coming from where we came from, like, was really normal. We don't have any fun, exciting and glamorous stories, really, to share. I mean, just only be I mean, I'm sure like, it was, you know, just because it was normal to me, like, but we didn't do things like, you know, fly to Europe every summer and do that kind of stuff that. My family was kind of homebody-ish, we didn't, I don't know, we didn't do extravagant things growing up. There were like, fun, exciting people around, you know, like, you know, the old actors like Gregory Peck. And you know, people like Cary Grant, like all these amazing, really incredible people, but I was a little too young to really understand or appreciate it right. So for me, they're just friends of, you know, my family and stuff. Everybody treated, everything as really normal and natural. It wasn't like, oh, and by the way, this famous person was coming, you know, to eat dinner at our house or whatever it is. It just wasn't how we grew up. It was a conscious thing. Obviously, my parents tried to make sure that it wasn't over the top. My dad in particular because my dad didn't come from any of that stuff. And he was, you know, well known in his own right, but he was always kind of like, super grounding.
Karen Ortman 03:49
So tell our listeners who your dad is.
AJ Lambert 03:51
My dad was Hugh Lambert. And he was a choreographer and a dancer and a producer. He was the choreographer on a show called Laugh In.
Karen Ortman 04:04
AJ Lambert 04:05
And he had his own little kind of act on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Hugh Lambert dancers, and he then later in life became a producer of like TV stuff. But mostly known for being a dancer and a choreographer.
Karen Ortman 04:19
Isn't Laugh In where Goldie Hawn sort of got her start?
AJ Lambert 04:24
Yeah. all those kinds of dancers.
Karen Ortman 04:28
Right. When did you realize that you were born into a famous family?
AJ Lambert 04:35
I guess it was always kind of known only because when we were pretty young, like we were included in you know, whenever there would be shows that were local and you know, going to, you know, kind of stands of shows in Las Vegas or something like we'd come, you know, I'm bringing our schoolwork and stuff right. We kind of knew like that's what they did for a living. But like, you know, again, it was so natural and normal for us.
Karen Ortman 05:10
So when you reflect on your childhood, and you come from a very musical family, when you think about the music of your childhood, what music was playing?
AJ Lambert 05:21
Actually, I heard a lot of my dad's record collection because he had this crazy record collection of everything from like, David Bowie to you know, things like Bread and the Pointer Sisters like it was very, very all over the place. I really picked up my taste from that. I dabble in all different kinds of genres.
Karen Ortman 05:52
You do. I've listened to your to your music, and you have a fantastic voice, and your musical style is very different from Frank Sinatra, from Nancy Sinatra, from all of the Sinatra's.
AJ Lambert 06:10
Karen Ortman 06:10
But very good.
AJ Lambert 06:12
Thank you. So definitely that kind of stuff. And then, you know, as a kid, when I discovered my mom's like, you know, she had like, a bunch of stuff that she didn't cut out, like demos and stuff that I remember, you know, listening to on tapes, and I was like, oh, this is so good. And like, it was only you know, me who knew what it was? It's kind of neat.
Karen Ortman 06:34
Yeah, very neat. Was it hard growing up as a Sinatra? You know with school, with peers?
AJ Lambert 06:45
No, I went to a school up until fifth grade where there were people who came from showbiz and stuff. Not like, I don't know, I went to school with, you know, Rashida and Kidada Jones were like, my very good friends. And I don't know like that. It wasn't abnormal. It's Los Angeles, I mean, people, that's just kind of how it is here in town.
Karen Ortman 07:14
Yeah. would you characterize your childhood as a happy one?
AJ Lambert 07:20
Definitely, until my father died. Yeah, then it was like a moment where everything kind of shifts.
Karen Ortman 07:30
When you consider your childhood and those happy memories, when your dad was still living, what's something that stands out in your mind?
AJ Lambert 07:42
Um, you know, it all kind of pivots around him in a way because he was kind of, he really, kind of kept everything together. Like he was kind of a link, I always felt a lot closer to that side than the other. It's two really different families. Lamberts and Sinatra's are pretty different, and not better or worse, it's that's I related to more, so it was a nice bridge to have him among, you know, the others.
Karen Ortman 08:19
AJ Lambert 08:20
And I feel like now I'm the Lambert in my family.
Karen Ortman 08:24
You're the Lambert rep.
AJ Lambert 08:26
Yeah, I'm reppin.
Karen Ortman 08:28
After your dad dies, how did things change and become unhappy for you?
AJ Lambert 08:36
Like I said, I was way closer to him. I had just turned 11, so it was like, really, really pivotal moment to have that happen. So I think pretty much everything after that, like moment, kind of informed who I turned out to be, no question about it. Like there's a before and an after no question about it. And I don't know that, you know, with addiction, it's kind of like, you can't really pinpoint any specific thing that like, made you be that way. I really do think that the sort of chasing it, chasing the ideal, chasing the happiness, chasing the what was is a major part of what it is for me.
Karen Ortman 09:27
Was your dad's passing unexpected?
AJ Lambert 09:31
Um, you know, for me, it was because they were very careful about what they told us about he was sick, he was definitely sick. And I was sick because he had what later like, came to understand was kind of like hospice care. But I understand that at the time, I thought it was like, oh, he came home and now he's gonna get better. And he did. He actually recovered. He had throat cancer. He had all kinds of horrible things like he couldn't speak. He had his jaw wired shut. He got fed through a tube, and then he sort of came back up and sort of was walking around. He still had his jaw thing, which was terrible but he was like back up and moving around and stuff. And the last time I saw him, he was like, up and waving goodbye, like, we were going someplace. And then he just took a turn, he caught pneumonia and that was it. I think they caught the cancer like too late, and he didn't want to do chemo. So, like, radiation can only do so much. This is all stuff I find out later of course. But for me, when I was told that he was dead, it was a major shock. I was not expecting that at all.
Karen Ortman 10:40
And that's when your life changed.
AJ Lambert 10:43
Absolutely, that moment is the minute I became who I am. Absolutely no question.
Karen Ortman 10:49
Would you say that the death of your father is your why it all started?
AJ Lambert 10:55
I don't know if, in my recovery, it's that much of a straight line. My recovery is always about, you know, there's a thing that you hear all the time about, like, you know, I needed a drink, I need a drink or a drug, whatever it is. You know, to feel better I need a drink. If I'm feeling sad, and you drink I'm feeling happy. I need a drink to cross the street. Like, I don't know that it is that direct. Like I said before, I think it informed who I became no matter what. But I believe personally that there has to be some kind of underlying part of you that has that propensity. I can't say that it caused me to be an addict. I don't think that's how it works personally. I think that if you put a whole bunch of factors together, and if you eliminate that one, maybe I don't become an addict. Maybe it comes out in different ways. My why; I guess it would be the way that I sought to replace that void in my life.
Karen Ortman 12:21
Okay, so your father passes away, you're 11. Let's talk about how that impacted your life from that point forward.
AJ Lambert 12:36
I mean, it was at such a time in my life where, you know, I really needed that guidance, I really needed a male support at that time, because, you know, everything's happening to a girl at that time, you know, your sexuality, and what does everything mean, and your body's changing, and it was helpful, obviously, to have your mother, that's one aspect of it, but I felt, I feel like I was missing a little bit of the kind of boundaries, and limits and self-respect kind of stuff that I really feel like I could have benefited from a male perspective, that time. So all those things can, from then on, you know, put you through the process of, you know, acting it out through different addictive behaviors, right. So I can be very impulsive when it comes to spending if I'm not careful, like it feeds its way through all different aspects of my life. It doesn't stop with drinking, or music. Like it doesn't stop with that. From that point forward I really felt like it just was, and this is a really recent discovery for me by the way...
Karen Ortman 14:05
That's good, yeah.
AJ Lambert 14:07
...that it's telling me all the time that there is something that's missing. That's the through line through all of it. And the new thing is, I know it's not replaceable. it's a matter of accepting that he's not a part of my life anymore. And it can't be and I have to just sort of live as if I'm a whole person...
Karen Ortman 14:35
Right, in spite of that, and the thing that is missing, that can't be replaced, is that your father?
AJ Lambert 14:42
Right, and the specific bond and what I felt from that bond, which was unconditional love and acceptance, and, you know, sort of approval. It was really important to me that I was, you know, approved of in his eyes that he thought what I did was good, that kind of stuff. So, it really sets you up for, at least for me, different ways of trying to fill that void and not just an empty pit, a hole that doesn't fill and all kinds of things don't fill. It just doesn't.
Karen Ortman 15:24
Yeah, I mean that makes complete sense to me. At what age did you start consuming alcohol and drugs?
AJ Lambert 15:32
That's the funny thing, I didn't start till I was out of high school. I never did a drug I never drank in high school. Never. I was really good.
Karen Ortman 15:41
And yet you still were feeling this loss?
AJ Lambert 15:44
Karen Ortman 15:45
And how did you cope with it in high school then?
AJ Lambert 15:48
So at that time I, you know, my first relationship was a very bad, way to adult, too advanced a situation with someone who was too old for me. You know, I think if I had had sort of the guidance leading up to that from a man, like, it would have been like, this is not a good idea.
Karen Ortman 16:13
And what was your mom's response to this relationship? What input did she have?
AJ Lambert 16:19
She kind of was like, and I've heard this from her in hindsight, she's like, you know, I realized that if I put limits on, it would only have made it more attractive to sort of rebel. This is what she thought, and it's possible. That's very possible. I don't know. But I mean, before that relationship, it was constantly like, I always was, like, love struck by somebody. And it was never requited. I always chasing that approval and it was about how they felt about me. I got them to like me, it wasn't as much about I like that person. It's like, oh, I see something in that person. I want that person to like me. So it's not a healthy way to have relationships. That's the first way it manifested itself for sure.
Karen Ortman 17:12
And you didn't realize what you're telling me now at the time? This is something that through years of, I'm sure therapy, you discovered?
AJ Lambert 17:22
At the time, I kind of knew I was just kind of like a sad sack, angsty you know, I was a real kind of goth kid. And I just thought it was like, oh, I'm a teenager, that's what happens. So I'm supposed to see the patterns of it, yeah, but I didn't drink or do a drug until I was in college, like 18 years old.
Karen Ortman 17:45
So tell me about that. So it started when you were 18. What did you start using? And how did that happen?
AJ Lambert 17:53
Alcohol and weed, like throughout college, just there, it was just there. I don't know. I was there. You know, you hear the story all the time of like, where it makes you feel like you're finally normal. And you feel like, you know, you have something that can sort of help, in general. So I had that, and I did you know, some more experimental drugs that you do around that time, but I never got addicted to any of that stuff. It was just I was pothead and I was drunk. That was my main thing.
Karen Ortman 18:30
Yeah. Did alcohol become a problem while in college?
AJ Lambert 18:36
It feels like it was a problem from the beginning. Like I never had a limit. I never knew when to stop. I would black out almost every time I drank, and that was up until I got sober and 2015. Always blacking out.
Karen Ortman 18:56
What was the response from your family, from your mom? Did anybody try an intervention with you?
AJ Lambert 19:05
Un, they did. I kind of asked for it. I am maybe let's see five or six years prior to 2016, 2015, I had tried it the first time, to actually get sober with like a proper program and addiction medicine help and all this stuff. And they were very helpful in that they brought me out here and got me in touch with people who could help me, it wasn't an in-patient type thing. But I lived out here for about three or four months. That helped a lot. And then I was sober for a few years. And then I had my daughter and I had really bad postpartum depression. My marriage was kind of unstable and it just started again. That was exhausting, because I knew that I was going to be a good parent, like no matter what, like that was not going to be a negotiable thing. I tortured myself by like blacking out, you know, passing out drinking most nights and then being up in the morning feeling sick and just pretending that I felt fine. Caring for my child, nothing ever was amiss with my care for my child, but it was a gargantuan effort, like, every day to try to be like, on like that and being sick every day. It was terrible.
Karen Ortman 20:39
Yeah, I'm sure.
AJ Lambert 20:41
I was just like, this is going to kill me. Like, it's going to kill me one way or the other, like, so I have to stop.
Karen Ortman 20:49
You've come to the realization that; this is going to kill me. What steps did you take to actually get into recovery?
AJ Lambert 21:01
Well, I had been, like I said, when I got sober the first time in like, properly, in like 2009 that lasted for, you know, a good two years. And during that time, when I moved back to New York, where I was living, I was really active. I hosted a Monday night meeting, like I was, you know, I chaired the meeting, I was very active in meetings almost every day. And then when I moved back out here, to, you know, raise our kid and all this, it just sort of fell apart then. So I knew the tools that I could use to know to properly get back. So I just, I found my meeting here. And I just stopped with the help of that, and of God. And you know, I just had the added sort of impetus at this point to really be present for my child, because she was four at the time. This isn't how I'm gonna, like, be a parent. I just can't do it. It would have killed me, even if the alcohol specifically hadn't killed me, just simply the exhaustion of trying to be that person.
Karen Ortman 22:25
In your waking hours, for your daughter.
AJ Lambert 22:28
Exactly. But it was a godsend that before I finally got to where I'm at now that I had had the experience where I knew it worked. I was really ready to go into it myself. The first time I did it, it was a lot because my relationship was having trouble, and I was sort of told, like, you know, this isn't working out, you know, and then I took it upon myself. He didn't point it out, but I took it upon myself to say, you know, I think it's my alcoholism that's messing me up, so I did that myself. But it wouldn't have happened without him saying something, you know. This time, it was solely because of me and my daughter. I credit that with how it has stuck. There are times still, but like, when I think of using again, I just it's like anathema to me. My life has changed, like, in so many amazing ways in the past few the years. It's like, I would never go back to how I felt. And I'm so grateful. Like every day when I wake up I'm like, I have so much gratitude every day for the fact I didn't die, because I could have.
Karen Ortman 23:53
So you made the comment that you never want to feel that way again, but are you ever tempted to taste the substance?
AJ Lambert 24:03
Karen Ortman 24:04
AJ Lambert 24:04
Thank God, never.
Karen Ortman 24:06
I'll second that. That's great.
AJ Lambert 24:08
Thank God. The feeling of wanting the numbness happens. Sometimes that does happen. But I have the tools to play it forward. You know, play my tape forward and see what happens to me if I pick up and I know that's not who I want to be, so it stops it pretty quickly.
Karen Ortman 24:29
So you have a daughter. How old is she now?
AJ Lambert 24:32
She's nine. She's going to be 10 in August.
Karen Ortman 24:36
AJ Lambert 24:38
Karen Ortman 24:38
How do you communicate your struggles with her or do you?
AJ Lambert 24:43
I do. You know, I wanted to wait till she was old enough to get it, but uh, you know, now she's aware that like mommy doesn't have a glass of wine when like, her father and I aren't together anymore, but we're very good friends, we raised her together, he lives right down the street. But like, if it's a gathering, like a family gathering, like last night, we just had his father's birthday and like, mommy doesn't have wine like everybody else does. And like, she started asking about it a few years ago, and I told her, you know, it's something that just makes me not feel good. And as she gets older, I'm explaining that it is deadly to me and the fact that it made my life really sad and bad. I also try not to be like, it's evil, it's the devil, like, for you, like, I don't want to make her have any preconceived notions about it, right. I'm really honest about it. You know, when I was really active with meetings before COVID, when I was going, like, all the time, it was like, she knew what it was, she knew I was going there because I was an addict. And, you know, she understood, and now she's like, when she sees stuff on movies or TV when people are being drunk and silly, she like knows that that's kind of annoying, or like, you know, she doesn't be like, whoo, that looks fun. I gotta be real vigilant. But we'll see.
Karen Ortman 26:20
So during the course of your addiction, which was many years, so college up till 2009, I think you said was your first attempt at sobriety? That lasted two years. And then...?
AJ Lambert 26:36
It's off and on 20 years.
Karen Ortman 26:39
Yeah, that's a really long time.
AJ Lambert 26:41
I feel it all the time.
Karen Ortman 26:45
When you reflect back on that time, when you were using, were you comfortable talking about it to family friends - hey, I have a problem, but I'm working on it - or is it something that you just kept to yourself?
AJ Lambert 27:02
I, you know, everybody thinks that they hide it really well. And of course, you don't, like everybody knows how bad it is somewhere in there. But I know they would definitely comment that like, if I overdid it, they would be like, you know, they knew that it was a problem for me. But I never said hey, I have this issue. I'm sorry, I'm working on it. Like never, it was just like, I was so reluctant to give up my you know, it's like your buddy, it's like your escape, and anything that threatened was terrifying to me, as is the case with most addicts. So if they, you know, come to try to take it away, you'll like, lie, you'll do anything that you need to do to keep your, your buddy with you. So no, I never talked about.
Karen Ortman 27:57
Okay. But at some point, when people are ready to give up that substance, and ready to go into recovery, which should be celebrated, there's a stigma associated with addiction. Why do you think that is?
AJ Lambert 28:23
I never experienced that only because, I guess in the circles I run in, like the fact that I lived in two metropolitan cities. Like it's kind of I know a lot of sober people. I know a lot of people who have gone through recovery and who are addicts, recovering. That's many of my friends. It's never been like something with a stigma attached to it in my experience, ever. I know it is for some people.
Karen Ortman 29:01
So there's no pain associated with opening up and being vulnerable and sharing your story with people first.
AJ Lambert 29:11
No, I mean, the last time I drank was a was a major bottom, obviously. It was another one of those nights where I was on my own. I was not with my daughter. I never really drank to excess with my daughter around but I still felt crummy in the morning and you know, that kind of stuff. But when I was on my own if like I had to go someplace to do, I don't know, I don't remember why I was in this place. But anyway, I ended up, I blacked out and I got to where I was staying with my mom at her house somehow and I have no idea still how I got there. I was sitting on the lawn outside of the complex where she lives and the police came and were like, you know, because they see me kind of, I guess I was just in the road on a really busy road. And you know, they needed to take me to her door, because they didn't believe me that I live there so you know, indigent or whatever it was now.
Karen Ortman 30:26
So did your mom answer the door?
AJ Lambert 30:28
Yes. And it was really devastating because I was, you know, a 40 year old woman still dealing with this. So it's really devastating. And she says that when she opened the door, I looked really angry. I looked really upset. So I think that's really interesting. Like it got taken away, you know, my secret kind of got shoved out and I didn't, I wasn't ready for it to happen like that. And it really, it was not comfortable at all being like vulnerable in the beginning like that, not because of stigma just because of shame. I was ashamed of how awful it had been for me. And you know, that was a major part of it for me was getting over the shame regarding, you know, my family, my husband, like that was very tough.
Karen Ortman 31:24
So that incident that you refer to, that's when you were married and had your daughter?
AJ Lambert 31:31
Yeah, I was still married at the time. Yes.
Karen Ortman 31:33
And you had your daughter?
AJ Lambert 31:35
I did. She wasn't with me at the time. She was like with her dad back up here. I was in Palm Springs doing something like looking for a venue to play at and going around to different venues and drinking the whole time.
Karen Ortman 31:49
Was that after your first attempt at recovery, or was that...?
AJ Lambert 31:54
This was my last drink.
Karen Ortman 31:56
AJ Lambert 31:57
That was my last drink.
Karen Ortman 31:58
And that was six years ago almost.
AJ Lambert 32:04
Karen Ortman 32:09
If there is somebody listening, who is experiencing what you have experienced with respect to addiction, and we'll say to alcohol? Is there any guidance that you could give to them or their loved one who's watching this happen? Or to help them cope? Clearly, there's nothing you can say to make somebody stop being an addict, that's the decision they have to come to on their own, but is there guidance that you can offer that would be helpful to somebody who is, or love someone who is an addicted person?
AJ Lambert 32:55
I know that you definitely cannot force this decision on an addict. That's definitely true. But you can have support for the addict with boundaries. Meaning, you know, I could have used a lot of things like when I was making very, very half handed attempts at sobriety, which I did in the years before 2015. There were a couple of times where I was like, let me just try this. It just didn't work. A lot of what would have helped me, I think, at the time would have been things like, a loved one eliminating alcohol from the house, you know, trying to engage me in things that had nothing to do with alcohol, like not hosting parties at our house. Like going to shows and stuff like that, that were challenging for me. Places, people and things, and the environment where my disease was happening all the time. If I had that support at the time when I was trying, I tried everything. I said, hey, if I drink again, you know, take our daughter or like, I tried everything. I put it on myself, but I didn't want it really, I wasn't ready. I really could have used like some creative, love loving support. Not, you're a drunk get sober, not that.
Karen Ortman 34:38
I hear you. Creative ways in which to sort of change the environment that makes it easier for you to consume. Correct?
AJ Lambert 34:45
Yeah. Right. And that's hard. I mean, as a parent, as a loved one that's really difficult to do. The instinct, which I understand completely is to be upset and to be angry because the addict is like wrecking your life like...
Karen Ortman 35:03
Changing everything that you know.
AJ Lambert 35:05
Correct. And I can only imagine how hard that is for someone who loves an addict, it's really difficult. I have some understanding of it only because I've been to ACA and you know...
Karen Ortman 35:19
What's the ACA?
AJ Lambert 35:20
Adult Children of Alcoholics, and because I have a little bit of that as well. And then it's also the Al-anon stuff. When I've been to Al-anon, it's very clear that like, these people are just completely at a loss as to what to do. Because in part, it's an impossible situation, but creative positive ways to sort of create an environment that's supportive without being like didactic, and just sort of you live your own life as a parent or a spouse or whatever. But, you know, don't have alcohol in the house don't like, keep perpetuating the same sort of environment that makes the addict be the addict or act on their addiction. Also, I would say, you know, if you're the actual addict, you know, all I can say is that from the other side it's like a night and day situation of life. You know, there's so many things that would absolutely not have happened in my life if I hadn't quit. And looking back right now, as sort of a, you know, from the other side thing, and a not so positive way, I have always in the back of my mind, the amount of days, weeks, months, years that I've lost from this, and I'm 47 now, and I wish with all my heart I could go back and do things differently.
Karen Ortman 37:13
Take that time back.
AJ Lambert 37:17
I really would have done things very differently. I'm not regretful of anything that's happened. But things could have been a lot more productive and positive. And I would have been a lot further along in all kinds of ways in my life and my soul and everything by now. I didn't do that because of the drinking, absolutely because of that.
Karen Ortman 37:42
Are you happy now?
AJ Lambert 37:43
I'm so happy now. It's like, just everything's changed. My daughter's wonderful and I feel very connected. And her dad and I get along, finally. And all of it has to do with getting out of the alcohol, all of it. And I'm, you know, more successful in my work and productive in ways that I hadn't been before, and consistent. And being in ways that I wasn't before. It's just completely changed my life in an amazing way.
Karen Ortman 38:24
Well, congratulations again. Does your daughter understand the family that she comes from?
AJ Lambert 38:33
Yeah, she gets. For many reasons, I don't allow her picture to be out in the world. because I can control it. Like, I'll walk up to people and take their cameras and stuff.
Karen Ortman 38:50
Just be careful doing that.
AJ Lambert 38:52
Oh, I know. But I don't care. Like, I'll just scratch their eyes out or something. She gets annoyed because like, she wants to have a YouTube channel and all this stuff. I'm like, am so sorry. It's not gonna happen. Like, you know, she does not want to be a musician. She's like, I'm tired of musicians of my family, I hate it. And she's really talented.
Karen Ortman 39:19
She might change her mind.
AJ Lambert 39:21
Maybe? Yeah. She's more of an athlete, so that's great. I'm encouraging her to do her own thing for sure.
Karen Ortman 39:29
Let's talk about your musical career. So you're still singing, you're still performing?
AJ Lambert 39:37
Well, not performing because of stupid COVID, but um, you know, I've been doing music in some form or another since I was 18 years old. But, you know, I had a career as a music supervisor for a while for films and the most recent kind of iteration of my career as like, specifically a singer, started in 2015 after I got sober. Before that I was in other people's bands, I was like, you know, playing bass with people. And it wasn't my music that I was writing a lot of the time. Now I'm doing a lot of, you know, other people's music, I do my own versions of stuff. But there's another project that I'm in now where I wrote stuff with other people. And, you know, it's kind of all over. But uh, yeah, I'm doing some score work on a film that's coming out, and I direct all my own videos, and there's all kinds of stuff going on.
Karen Ortman 40:46
You're very talented. You are.
AJ Lambert 40:49
Karen Ortman 40:51
Tell me about the time that you and your mom appeared on The Sopranos.
AJ Lambert 40:59
She's friends with Steven Van Zandt, for a long time, like, he kept saying, like, oh, we got to get one of your songs in there and, you know, do something with you in the show. And it just kept being talked about nothing ever happened. Then I produced her last record that she made and one of the songs that was on it is something that I co-wrote. He heard it, she actually sort of pitched it to him and just said, Hey, this is called Bossman, it's like, it's perfect. It's all about this kind of idea, whatever. And then he liked it. And he sort of made it so that it would be a scene where she's actually performing the song. And I got called to clear the publishing because I was one of the writers and all the publishers and all this stuff. So I was doing the paperwork of that and I said, you know, this is on camera, right? And they're like, yeah, so do you know, if you're using the actual recording, there is a background vocal in the song and you might want to have someone singing that part for it to look authentic.
Karen Ortman 42:10
And it was you!
AJ Lambert 42:12
So, yeah, the recording is me. So I was like, Hey, I'm happy to do it. And so they said, Yes, and that's how I ended up on it.
Karen Ortman 42:22
AJ Lambert 42:23
Yeah. was a big thing.
Karen Ortman 42:25
Yeah. And I'm sure all those Soprano fans out there will recall the episode.
AJ Lambert 42:32
The episode that I'm in is called Chasing It, which is very interesting.
Karen Ortman 42:38
It is very interesting.
AJ Lambert 42:40
Karen Ortman 42:42
What's your most special memory of your grandfather?
AJ Lambert 42:46
I get asked this a lot.
Karen Ortman 42:49
Darn, I thought it was gonna hit you with an original.
AJ Lambert 42:52
You know, if you ask anybody, like, what's your most special memory of your grandfather... I mean, there's so many and it's like, there's not one kind of thing. I just, I just remember him being a really fun, funny person to be around. And like, he was just always keen to, you know, be silly and like, you know, get in the pool with us. And like, he was just he was like, a kid at heart, that was mostly what I what I loved about him.
Karen Ortman 43:22
What feature of his stands out the most?
AJ Lambert 43:25
Feature of his as a person or as a feature?
Karen Ortman 43:28
You're supposed to say his blue eyes.
AJ Lambert 43:33
Oh, man come on. Sure his blue eyes. No, I thought you meant like as a person.
Karen Ortman 43:40
No, they call Ol' Blue Eyes!
AJ Lambert 43:43
Uh, I'm supposed to say blue eyes, right?
Karen Ortman 43:45
AJ Lambert 43:46
Yes. Darn? That would work. Honestly what I would say is he always smelled like lavender. He used this Yardley's lavender soap.
Karen Ortman 44:01
That was around back then?
AJ Lambert 44:02
But that's the feet physical feature that I remember the most.
Karen Ortman 44:05
Okay. What is your favorite song of his?
AJ Lambert 44:14
Wow. That's really hard.
Karen Ortman 44:19
I think I should be asked these questions because I would have the answers.
AJ Lambert 44:24
I mean, I have you know, there was a moment for a while in the past few years where I was doing shows where I was doing entire albums of his of his, just me and a piano. And I would do In the Wee Small Hours, the album and Only the Lonely, the whole album. Those songs are typically what I respond to the most, that phase. But the one that I always kind of like, that sticks out in my mind when I think about it is a song called If You are but a Dream. That's from like, really, really early days, that's my favorite time. I like the early, really beautiful young voice kind of stuff. And I really like all the super sad, dark music.
Karen Ortman 45:29
Does that relate to your comment about your goth period?
AJ Lambert 45:36
Perhaps very much in touch with my dark side, but I think that everyone should be.
Karen Ortman 45:43
Do you plan on recording any of your grandfather's songs in the future?
AJ Lambert 45:49
I have. Well, my first full length LP on my own. I did Uptight and I did...
Karen Ortman 46:00
You did like three songs, right?
AJ Lambert 46:07
On that one I did Uptight and I'll Be Seeing You. And then I did a record a few years ago on the anniversary of Only the Lonely, I made an EP of songs that I did with piano and guitar.
Karen Ortman 46:24
AJ Lambert 46:27
Lonely Songs is the name of the EP and that has my songs from Only the Lonely that I love the best. And then on the new one that's coming out next year in January I am doing Mood Indigo, which he did, and I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good, which he did. And now
Karen Ortman 46:49
I look forward to that. when are you gonna sing your mom song These Boots Are Made for Walking?
AJ Lambert 46:54
Well, not a...
Karen Ortman 46:55
AJ Lambert 46:57
I don't do, so like, the covers that I choose are things where if it's too iconic to the person, like I would never do that. Somebody was like, you should do Star Man, the David Bowie song. And I'm like...
Karen Ortman 47:13
I love that song.
AJ Lambert 47:15
But that's his, like he did that. And that's all good. You can't cover that, you can't cover Boots, you can't cover...
Karen Ortman 47:21
But people do.
AJ Lambert 47:23
I know, and they shouldn't? The only cover of These Boots Are Made for Walking that's good in my opinion is Crispin Glover's version. That's the only one that's good.
Karen Ortman 47:34
Okay. Is there anything that we haven't discussed, that you think is important for listeners to know.
AJ Lambert 47:49
I think that, you know, everybody's trauma, or victimization, or victimhood is different. But in the end, like, we all come to recovery, the same. It doesn't matter what got you there. Like, if you're in recovery, or you want to be in recovery, you're among friends, it doesn't matter where they came from, it doesn't matter where you came from, it matters that you're there and that you want to be there. And support is the only thing that can help keep you sober. I think I'm thinking, like you have a podcast talking about it, and you know, outreach like that is super important.
Karen Ortman 48:36
And super important for you to give me your time today to share your story and to offer your constructive guidance on steps that people can take who have been in similar situations. So I'm so grateful.
AJ Lambert 48:51
Yeah, so I'm sorry, I just want to add...
Karen Ortman 48:53
AJ Lambert 48:53
None of it is your fault. Like you're not a bad person for ending up in the situation that you're in, like, whatever the situation is, that you feel has led you to where you're at. It's not anything to be ashamed of at all, whether it's the event itself, or whether it's the fact that you need help, or you feel like you want to change like there's nothing shameful about it at all. And only then, it's only better from there.
Karen Ortman 49:28
Once you make the decision.
AJ Lambert 49:30
Exactly, I promise it's only better from there. There's bumps, and it's only better after that.
Karen Ortman 49:37
Well, I love that. And I am so appreciative of you and our conversation today. So thank you so much, once again.
AJ Lambert 49:47
Thank you so much for having me on. I really appreciate being asked..
Karen Ortman 49:52
My pleasure. So thank you to my guest AJ and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of You Matter if any information presented was triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 or NYU's Department of Campus Safety and their Victim Services Unit at 212-998-2222. Please share, like, and subscribe to You Matter on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Tune in or Spotify.