Monadnock Profiles: For Vere Hill, music is in his soul

  • Vere Hill of Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Vere Hill, of Peterborough, is a renowned car detailer, but when he’s not working his magic on a vehicle, he’s probably behind his keyboard. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Vere Hill of Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Vere Hill of Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/25/2021 11:08:01 AM

Get Vere Hill behind a keyboard and the St. Maarten native is in his element. He lives for that connection that comes with performing his craft in the company of others.

Music has always been a part of his life – perhaps even before he was born, Hill said.

“My mom said when she was pregnant with me I’d kick with the music,” Hill said. “So she knew before I was born I’d be a musician.”

Both his parents, Abdue and Zelma, were musicians and the radio was always on in the family home. It was evident to anyone around him at a very young age, Hill said, that he was destined to play music.

“Everyone around me was a musician so it was natural for me to get into it,” he said.

He played with a number of bands during his time in St. Maarten performed in church and played with the gospel band. It’s almost euphoric when his fingers tickle the ivory, he said, and he hopes that his music can bring others that same joy.

“It’s comforting for me because so many people struggle with so many problems, issues, and sometimes it only takes happy music to change the whole vibe for people,” Hill said. Performing in front of others does the same for Hill.

“The ability to have a certain energy between me and the people I perform for is why I do it,” Hill said.

For Hill, it’s a mix of original songs and others that are some of his all-time favorites, like the Eagles, Billy Joel and Tom Petty.

When Hill was four, his dad got him a 25-key piano. He’d listen to whatever was playing in the house and try to mimic it.

“I wouldn’t play it perfect, but I’d play it,” he said.

By the time he was seven or eight, music had taken over his life. As Hill described it, his parents kept feeding him instruments – bigger pianos, keyboards, drums, bass, guitar. As he got more into guitar, Hill, who plays lefty, joked “the thing was so heavy I think my right shoulder is bigger than my left.”

But he was always drawn back to the piano because it was simply his favorite.

Growing up on St. Maarten, the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of St. Martin, Hill had a big connection with the culture, the music, the island way of life. There were more trips to the beach than most could dream of and a lot of fishing. He was big into scuba diving, exploring shipwrecks and seeking out the marine life that could only be seen with an air tank strapped to his back.

“I was always a lover of animals, lover of the sea,” Hill said. One Easter Sunday in his childhood, on his way to get bread, Hill happened upon a bird nest in a tree and took out one of the eggs. His father was not impressed and told Hill to put it back. Then he got stung in the left eye by a wasp, causing it to swell up like an apple right before his evening performance.

“From then, I really started to appreciate animals,” Hill said.

He worked for the Nature Foundation Saint Maarten; his work was centered around creating moorings for visiting boats. It was a program created in an effort to prevent boats from dropping anchor and disturbing or destroying the coral reef below. One day, a group of reef sharks swam up while he and a few co-workers were attempting to install a mooring 85 feet below the surface. The sharks don’t pose a threat to humans but “if it got a good grip on you, it would be bad,” Hill said.

“You’ve got to have manners,” he said. “You’re encroaching in those guys’ territory, so you’ve got to abide by their rules.”

Hill also worked on fish-counting expeditions, shark protection and ocean cleanups.

“We were getting paid, but it was also something you do for yourself to give back to your community,” Hill said.

His love of diving paired well with his passion for fishing, often diving for lobsters.

“You wouldn’t have to go too far to find lobsters,” Hill said. His deepest dive to date is 185 feet below the surface.

Fishing was a way to relax and it helped him connect to the natural world that surrounded his home, much like people in the Monadnock region might connect to the wooded wilderness.

“It helped me be patient,” Hill said. “Always a good way to cool down.”

When he was 12, Hill moved from St. Maarten to St. Kitts/Nevis, a small island to the south where his father grew up. The family spent a handful of years on the lesser known Caribbean island as “my dad wanted to build a restaurant in his hometown,” Hill said.

The family moved back to St. Maarten and Hill stayed there until the age of 33. That’s when he moved to Virginia and started to play a lot of music with a number of different people and loved the collaboration. Then his best friend from back home, who was living in Providence, Rhode Island at the time, offered up a proposition.

“He was like why don’t you move up here? The music scene is much bigger up here,” Hill remembered. That’s all he needed to hear.

It gave him the opportunity to go to a new place with a whole different group of musicians, so in December of 2015 he made the move. He started playing with a band called 6 Foot Sunday.

“That band was so good together,” Hill said. “That’s what opened the door for my music career to kick off,” he said. Then one night, scheduling conflicts left Hill as the only member to show up for a gig. That’s when he got an offer that set his musical journey down a new path.

“They asked me ‘would you like to play a gig by yourself?’” Hill said. “And since that solo gig, I’ve been playing by myself for quite a while.”

He still likes collaborating with other musicians, creating new sounds, but there’s something about being on stage alone, making that personal connection with an audience.

“The reason I like performing solo is because I know what I want to hear and what I want to perform,” he said.

Pre-pandemic, Hill was very busy on the music front. He said on the weekends, sometimes he’d have two or three shows in a day, doing something a little more mellow for a brunch crowd, and a typical upbeat production at night. It was his full-time income and it couldn’t have been more perfect. He was traveling all over New England playing at different venues to different crowds.

“Then everything was just completely scratched off (the calendar),” Hill said of last March. “All of a sudden, just like that, gone.”

Luckily he had money saved up, but it wasn’t easy making it last. He turned to Facebook Live to give performances because for one he missed playing for others, and he knew people out there needed it. But at the same time, it wasn’t bringing in any money. Over the last few months, in person shows have picked up some as he’s a regular at The Colosseum Restaurant in Salem.

Since March, Hill has been spending a lot more time in Peterborough with his girlfriend Kate Saari. They had been friends for a while, but the two had a deeper connection, one that warranted a more romantic relationship. He’s been mostly in the area since the summer, and late this fall, he decided to move up. And he’s found it to be reminiscent of home – minus the beaches and the snow.

“It’s quiet, peaceful,” Hill said.

As the months went on with no income, Hill saw someone post a question on the Peterborough Facebook page.

“It said ‘is there anyone that can detail my car for me?’ ” Hill remembered of the post. He took the gig, cleaning a family minivan, which took all day. He posted before and after pictures and from there he was getting appointment requests almost every day.

“Survival mode kicked in when stuff got serious,” he said.

He’d always loved cars, remembering an old school Chevy his dad had when he was a kid. This was another way to reconnect to his childhood passions and start a new business.

“It’s boosted my passion, my love of cars,” he said. For the most part he does it by himself, outside of occasional help from Saari, and he describes a customer’s happy reaction as the best feeling.

Over the last year, Hill has learned a lot about taking care of himself. His schedule was hectic before last March and getting the chance to step back and reassess has made a huge difference.

“I realized you got to make some time to relax, regroup,” he said. It’s led to a new outlook on life, one filled with positive thoughts and personal growth.

There are times he misses home, and the island way of life. He’d love to be able to start spending a few months there each year and perhaps, one day, move back there full time.

“I almost forgot I had such a nice home back there,” he said.

But for now, Hill is enjoying this little corner of the world, playing music and getting his business off the ground. Because he knows that island life will be waiting for him when he’s ready to go back.




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