She began writing songs and singing when she was 14 – just about the same time a rare degenerative disease began to eat away at her jaw, threatening a promising singing career before it really even began.
Jessica Poland, who is currently singing under the name Charlotte Sometimes on NBC’s The Voice competition, was diagnosed with Condylar Resorption when she was a student at .
The disease, in which the bones of the jaw are steadily broken down and disintegrate, is nine times more likely to affect women and generally begins at puberty. There is no known cause.
Poland considers herself lucky. She was able to get the medical attention and the reconstructive surgery she needed to rebuild her jaw. She is currently setting up a nonprofit organization to raise money and awareness about her disease.
“It’s really hard for these girls to find help,’’ Poland said. “It’s tough to find information, because there’s not a lot of research going on. I feel like if there’s anything I can do, any way I can help that I should that.’’
Although Poland, 24, now lives in New York City, she is a lifelong resident of Wall. She attended , and graduated from in 2006. Her parents, Hartson and Tracy Poland, live in North Wall.
“I think I have an even greater appreciation of this town now that I’ve moved away,’’ Poland said. “But I come back and I think to myself, ‘yeah, this is home.’’’
Growing up the youngest of three, Poland said she learned to seek attention early. She spoke glowingly about her experience with teachers, who she credits with encouraging her to follow her dreams.
“Everyone there – all my teachers were just so supportive, and I am just so appreciative of that,’’ Poland said. “Wall is where everything happened to me.”
She’s continuing a promising singing career. She has released a studio album, three EPs and performed on the 2008 Warped Tour, among other accomplishments.
A little face-time with a few million fellow Americans on national television likely isn’t going to hurt that, either.
Poland is one of the members of Team Blake on The Voice, where she wowed all four celebrity judges with her blind audition – a performance that was shown two weeks ago. Poland did not perform on the show that aired Monday, but it is expected that she will when the show airs next week.
“I’m having a blast,’’ Poland said. “I thought I’d be a stressed-out maniac, but I’m really just having fun.’’
Poland's stage name -- Charlotte Sometimes -- is one part her middle name (Charlotte) and one part a nod to a 1960s novel by the same name about a boarding school girl who travels back in time to live another girl's life. The book was popularized by a song, also by the same name, recorded by '80s New Wave band The Cure.
All the action that television audiences are viewing on The Voice was taped late last year, and non-televised auditions began in August, Poland said.
Poland had to fend off scads of hopefuls during four rounds of auditions before she was able to perform for the judges on the televised show, which was taped in September. That final round had about 90 singers and only a handful made it to the show, Poland said.
In a recorded interview that aired before her televised performance, Poland said she could not wait to "show them what I got.''
"My job as a coach is to hear it, understand it and within the first few lines I knew what I was hearing,'' Shelton said. "I think we're all gravitating toward unique vocalists. And that's what you are.''
"You were great,'' said judge Christina Aguilera. "I loved your performance. You were strong the whole way through.''
"When you opened up, it was like a flower,'' said judge Cee Lo Green. "It was beautiful, just very graceful, very poised.''
"I thought you were amazing,'' Levine said.
With that, Poland had her choice of mentors. She chose Shelton, a decision that even surprised herself.
“I thought I might not get too much further in this, but I’m committed to having fun,’’ Poland said. “And who better to have fun with than Blake Shelton?’’
Poland continued to gush over Shelton, saying he is “just the coolest person ever,’’ and expressing her indebtedness for his professional advice and mentoring, especially pairing her with singing star Kelly Clarkson, the winner of the first season of American Idol.
“Who better to be paired with than the queen of reality singing competitions?’’ Poland said.
She wouldn’t say how far she makes it on the show, naturally, but did say she was in New Jersey for a few weeks before heading out to Los Angeles.
“You can tune in and see,’’ she said.
The Voice airs at 8 p.m. Mondays.