Grammy-nominated engineer Ethan Willoughby was killed in a car accident on February 18, in Los Angeles, as a result of being hit by a drunk driver.
Born in Evansville, Wis., Willoughby attended the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Tempe, Ariz., earning his degree in Engineering and Production Education. After graduating in 1999, he began his career as an assistant under his mentor, mix engineer Dave Pensado, at The Enterprise Studio in North Hollywood. While assisting Pensado, Willoughby worked on projects for Pink, Christina Aguilera, Brian McKnight, Jessica Simpson, Mya, Lionel Richie and Destiny’s Child, and embarked on his first collaboration with Justin Timberlake on the artist’s debut album, Justified. He was awarded a Grammy nomination this year for Album of the Year for Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds.
“Of all the people I’ve known in the music business,” Pensado recalled, “Ethan had the purest love and enjoyment for what he did. Everyone he touched was better off for knowing him.”
After two-and-a-half years working under Pensado, Willoughby transitioned to lead engineer, where his work with will.i.am on Bob Marley’s “Africa Unite (will.i.am Remix)” led to a close relationship with the Black Eyed Peas and subsequent work on their projects. will.i.am stated, “Ethan was one of the few people I trusted with my music to mix it and make it sound perfect. Most importantly, he was one of the nicest, kindest people that God blessed us with.”
Timberlake said, “I am deeply saddened by this loss. Ethan Willoughby was not only an amazing talent in the studio, but also an amazing person. We will all miss his presence and his love for music. We love you dearly, Ethan, and we will carry on your love for what we hold so dear. A true gift to our industry. A loyal friend to me. See you in the next one, my man.”
Willoughby is survived by his wife, Stephanie Cooper-Willoughby; daughters, Ava and Mycheala; sister, Catherine; and parents, John and Barbara Willoughby.