Undercover brother

The name Solomon McCrea may sound partially familiar. Can he have his cake and eat it, too?

Solomon McCrea, who probably won’t be following the String Cheese Incident around anytime soon.

Solomon McCrea, who probably won’t be following the String Cheese Incident around anytime soon.

Live! 8:30 p.m. Tonight, October 10, at the Fox & Goose, 1001 R Street, no cover. With the Never Willibys (members of Nevada Backwards).

Living in a medium-sized city where one of your older brothers is arguably the most famous musician in town is one thing. Hanging out your own shingle as a singer-songwriter in those circumstances is another.

Solomon McCrea, 30, must know that his surname will open a few doors, at least locally. It’s an old tradition in show business, from Alex, Kate and Livingston Taylor to Jim Belushi or Aaron Carter: If the genius you want is under contract to someone else, then sign the sibling and hope there’s enough residual genius in the genes to deliver the goods.

But McCrea also knows that playing the famous-brother card has certain drawbacks. “I definitely have to deal with him being my famous brother,” he said, “but I try to be low-key about it because I want to succeed on my own merit.”

Fair enough.

McCrea’s brother John, who writes and sings most of the music for that internationally recognized combo known as Cake, is eight years older than Solomon and has never seen him perform. “Lately, he’s been more supportive and likes the demos I’ve given to him,” Solomon said. “He thinks I should try to get into professional songwriting—and have others perform the music.”

Of course, Solomon disagrees. But, should he decide to hide his identity behind a band name, he most likely won’t be choosing a single-syllable dessert item for its moniker.

Solomon did, in fact, have a band. It was called Counterflow, and it performed locally after he returned to Sacramento from San Luis Obispo. He’d gone to college there, at Cal Poly, and that was where he picked up the bug to play music—mostly on acoustic guitar, with a minor in cello. But Counterflow broke up, pretty much because of that old standby, artistic differences.

Solomon is rather picky about with whom he makes music, you see. “I played with this one guy,” he said, “and he was just phenomenal, but he was just, like, jam style all the time. And I like to play with people who are developing parts. A lot of people can jam all day long, but they don’t necessarily work at the particular melodies for each song.”

This can present a problem to someone who’s had a bit of classical training—or six years’ worth, as Solomon has had. His early education, from age 3 through the eighth grade, came via the Waldorf School in his native Fair Oaks, with the school’s emphasis on the teachings of esoteric philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Rather than the dog-eat-dog competitive realities acknowledged by mainstream American public schools, the Steiner method encourages its students to go with the flow and work out cooperative solutions, which is ironic given Solomon’s adulthood antipathy toward jam-band noodling.

But paradoxes abound. “I used to have major hearing problems,” he said of his early years (that was before, he said, the Waldorf curriculum helped him). “Which is kind of ironic,” he added, “now that I’m involved in music.”

Since the demise of his band, Solomon’s attention has turned toward solo work and toward developing his voice as a songwriter. He’s done a bit of recording. He’s gigged around: Borders, Luna’s, the True Love and the Fox & Goose, where he’ll play this evening, October 10. And, after what he calls a year’s hiatus, he’s ready to give it another shot. He haltingly describes his music as “emo,” but adds that it’s a mix of many things: folk-rock, Celtic drone, California country story-songs and even contemporary classical.

Solomon also has been talking to his brother, who has some advice.

“He’s told me to listen to some of the great modern composers,” Solomon said, “like he says I should get a Beatles songbook and keep working on how to position the chords. I’m definitely open to new ideas, but, on another level, I feel like we do two different things.”

Sometimes, you need to find your own voice.